Warren Gatland Hopes A Mixture Of Youth And Experience Will Help To Put Aside the Trouble Of This Week By Defeating England

Harry Corish - Sportin Journalist

Wales head coach Warren Gatland discusses his team selection ahead of Wales’ crunch Six Nations game against England.

The Kiwi hopes his side can put aside the of field troubles to defeat England in this Saturday’s Six Nations clash in Cardiff.

If they can somehow pull it off, a victory this weekend could go on to be described as ‘one of the greatest wins’ in the professional era, having come within a backdrop of uncertainty and infighting within Welsh rugby.

Gatland’s Welsh players had been angered over the failure to deal with the player’s contracts, but a resolution was reached following crisis talks which took place earlier in the week.

Wales have struggled thus far in this years’ Six Nations tournament, losing their first two games against Ireland and Scotland. While England have shown some promise under new coach Steve Borthwick, beating Italy 34-14 last time out.

England are in a similar position to Wales, with a new coach placed in the hot seat, just weeks before the start of the Six Nations.

While Wales have struggled in the early exchanges of the tournament, England look to have gone back to their set piece game, a strong feature of Borthwick’s Leicester side last year, which will be a worry for Wales.

Wales head coach Gatland has gone for a mix of experience and youth, selecting 20-year-old Cardiff rookie, who is set for his Test debut in the centre position. While adding Alun Wyn Jones, Taulupe Faletau and Justin Tipuric to his pack.

Grady will start alongside fellow 20-year-old Joe Hawkins, who is his former under 20’s centre partner. The promising duo will be looking to impress with the World Cup looming just six games away.

Warren Gatland said:

“I haven’t really thought of the emotions going into the game, I am just happy things have been sorted and we can finally focus on preparing for Saturday.”

The message to the players has been let’s draw a line in the sand in terms of what’s been going on and focus completely on the rugby.

“We know the history of Wales and England and what the fixture means to everyone in Wales, so we’ve got to go out there and give a good performance.’

“Some of those experienced players have been through a lot of big situations, Grand Slams, winning Six Nations and World Cup semi-finals. They’ve handled a huge amount of pressure. It has definitely been a challenging week with all that has been going on.

“We have been impressed by Mason (Grady) coming in. He’s quick, he brings some physicality, he’s still young. I asked him the other day what’s your biggest work-on and he said being more vocal and talking.

It is remarkable that Grady has been selected to represent Wales’ senior team, just 12 months on from suffering a particularly nasty ACL injury.

The Cardiff centre impressed during his time playing for Wales under 20’s and has taken that form into the senior game, having impressed at Cardiff this season, in the URC and in the European Challenge Cup.

The physical centre has played just 20 senior games for Cardiff, playing 14 of those games this season. But Grady has been showing some excellent form, which helped him force his way into Warren Gatland’s squad in the first place.

“We’ve given Mason Grady a first cap. He’s a big lad, he’s got some really lovely rugby skills and offloading ability. He’s quick, so he’s the kind of centre I think is going to have it all going forward,” added the Wales coach.

“He’s got a good rugby head on him. He’s still pretty inexperienced, but I have been really happy with him in training.

“Mason has got some fantastic attributes in terms of what he can bring to the game. It’s a great opportunity for him. Himself and Joe [Hawkins] have played together so it’s a young midfield combination which is pretty exciting.

“There is some experience coming back into the side with Faletau, Tipuric, Jones and also Leigh Halfpenny coming in,’ Gatland said.

“We have brought some experience back with the squad and the changes we have made with the young faces alongside them, hopefully there is a better balance.”


Backs: Leigh Halfpenny; Louis Rees-Zammit, Mason Grady, Joe Hawkins, Josh Adams; Owen Williams; Tomos Williams

Forwards: Gareth Thomas, Ken Owens (capt), Tomas Francis, Adam Beard, Alun Wyn Jones, Christ Tshiunza, Justin Tipuric, Taulupe Faletau

Replacements: Bradley Roberts, Rhys Carre, Dillon Lewis, Dafydd Jenkins, Tommy Reffell, Kieran Hardy, Dan Biggar, Nick Tompkins