Springboks – Gatland Wants Welsh Youngsters To ‘Relish’ Challenge


Warren Gatland wants his young Welsh side to relish the challenge against the world champion Springboks at Twickenham on Saturday (2.00pm kick-off).

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Both teams will be missing key players, and for Wales that now includes their World Cup co-captain Jac Morgan, who has been ruled out of the summer tour to Australia with a hamstring injury that requires immediate rest.

The ‘Boks will have 10 of the matchday 23 from their latest World Cup triumph in Paris last October in their side and lock Eben Etzebeth will be winning his 119th cap – more than the entire Welsh pack.

“You have to go through that pain sometimes and be able to come out the other side. There is nothing wrong with that – you have to be brave and overcome your fear factor,” said Wales head coach, Gatland.

“You are going out there and playing against big men and it’s going to hurt. You have to go through some pain.

“That is the way you improve, by playing against the best. That’s not just in rugby but any sport – it is the biggest part of your development.

“Test match rugby is tough and physical, and you have got to be able to handle adversity. It is probably not the politically correct thing at the moment in today’s society, but you have to be mentally tough.”

Cardiff scrum half Ellis Bevan will win his first cap, while Scarlets’ centre Eddie James and Cardiff utility back Jacob Beetham will hope to make their first appearances off the bench.

Meanwhile, former Saracens prop Vincent Koch will win his 50th cap in what will be the Springboks first game since they beat the All Blacks to make it back-to-back world titles in Paris.

“When I look back at my own experience as a young player coming through and playing for Waikato against Auckland, who were full of All Blacks and one of the best teams in the world back then, they put 40 points on us.

“The pace and intensity of the game was at a different level, but I came away saying I want to play against them again next week. The amount I learned as a player was part of my growth and development.

“That’s part of the challenge as a young player. If you start doubting yourself, you have to be able to overcome those sorts of challenges.

“When we had the trial in 2014 between the ‘Probables’ and ‘Possibles’ at Swansea, the ‘Probables’ won that game comfortably. There were a lot of players in the ‘Possibles’ asking was this what Test match rugby was all about.

“The guys said no there is another level above this. You try and replicate what you can in training, but they need to experience that – you want them coming off the field, having learned, enjoyed and also wanting more of it.

“We have some individuals in the side who love that challenge and thrive on it, people like Dewi Lake and Dafydd Jenkins. They won’t walk away from a challenge they run towards it and see it as something they thrive on in terms of meeting it head-on and vital for their growth and development.”

Wales XV: Wales: 15 Cameron Winnett, 14 Liam Williams, 13 Owen Watkin, 12 Mason Grady, 11 Rio Dyer, 10 Sam Costelow, 9 Ellis Bevan, 8 Aaron Wainwright, 7 James Botham, 6 Taine Plumtree, 5 Ben Carter, 4 Matthew Screech, 3 Keiron Assiratti, 2 Dewi Lake (c), 1 Gareth Thomas. Replacements: 16 Evan Lloyd, 17 Kemsley Mathias, 18 Harri O’Connor, 19 James Ratti, 20 Mackenzie Martin, 21 Gareth Davies, 22 Eddie James, 23 Jacob Beetham.