Go Out And Book Your Plane Ticket, Warren Gatland Tells Wales Players Ahead of Springboks Test

Wales coach Warren Gatland has told Wales players whose hopes of going to the World Cup are in the balance, to go out and make their case against South Africa on Saturday.

The weekend clash in Cardiff is a last chance for players to impress Gatland, who will announce his 33-strong squad for the tournament within 48 hours of the final whistle.

“There is an opportunity for players on Saturday. We will come back as a coaching group after the game and finalise the squad,” Gatland said.

“We are confident that those players carrying injuries are going to be available for the first game against Fiji.

“We will get a pretty detailed injury update in terms of all the players in the squad, the ones carrying knocks and when they can return to full-time training and when they are available.

“Potentially, there may be one or two decisions, which has happened in the past, where we are still undecided and we might sleep on it and make a final decision potentially on the Sunday.

“Then it’s a matter of notifying the players and announcing the squad on Monday.”

Wales will be without British and Irish Lions Liam Williams and Dan Biggar. Both players had been selected to start the game but have been withdrawn as a precautionary measure.

Williams has a tight hamstring, with Biggar suffering from back irritation.

Cai Evans is promoted from the replacements’ bench to make his Test debut as Williams’ replacement, while Sam Costelow takes over from fly-half Biggar.

Gatland added: “Both of them, if we pushed them hard, could play on Saturday, but the decision was made, there is no point taking a risk at this stage.

“If this was a World Cup semi-final, Dan Biggar would have been fine for the weekend.”

Forwards Dewi Lake and Taine Plumtree, who were injured during Wales’ narrow defeat against England at Twickenham last weekend, are on course to be available for the World Cup opener against Fiji in Bordeaux on September 10.

Wales have recovered from a poor Six Nations under Gatland to beat England convincingly at the Principality Stadium and then lose a game they should really have won at Twickenham.

But Gatland smiled and suggested he only looks at the here and now after Welsh Rugby Union director of rugby Nigel Walker claimed Gatland would be kept in position regardless of what happened at next month’s tournament in France.

Gatland has a five-year contract, with a review clause which could be activated after the forthcoming tournament.

The New Zealander made it clear that he has yet to decide whether or not he would take up the option to lead Wales to what would be his fifth tournament in charge, having overseen those in 2011, 2015 and 2019 before returning for a second spell in January before the 2023 version.

When asked about Walker’s comments, Gatland said: “We’ll see how the World Cup goes!

“I am just focusing on the short term. I have never been a person who thinks long term too much in terms of my own personal situation.

“I am a great believer in what will be will be. I have already seen the work this group have done and strides we have made. I think we can do something pretty special at this World Cup, and I honestly believe that.

“If that happens, then those other things take care of themselves.”