Warren Gatland throws down the gauntlet to Scotland ahead of clash

‘We want to play attractive but smart and winning rugby’: Warren Gatland throws down the gauntlet to Scotland after returning from New Zealand

  • A jet-lagged Warren Gatland has thrown down the gauntlet to Scotland
  • The Wales head coach has had a tough week after the death of his father
  • He had to fly home to New Zealand but landed back in Wales on Wednesday
  • Gatland was keen to erase the notion this will be a warm-up match in Cardiff 

A jet-lagged Warren Gatland had barely been back in Wales 24 hours before he was in full Test-match flight, laying down the gauntlet to Scotland.

The Wales head coach has had a tough week. He had to fly home to New Zealand after the death of his father, returning on Wednesday, therefore was not expected in front of the press.

But on Thursday he wanted to set the agenda for Saturday’s first Under Armour Test. 

Warren Gatland had barely been back in Wales 24 hours before taking aim at Scotland

Warren Gatland had barely been back in Wales 24 hours before taking aim at Scotland

WALES TEAM TO FACE SCOTLAND 

Halfpenny; North, J Davies, Parkes, L Morgan; Anscombe, G Davies; Smith, Owens, Lewis, Hill, AW Jones (c), Lydiate, Tipuric, Moriarty.

Replacements: Dee, R Evans, Brown, Beard, Wainwright, T Williams, J Evans, S Evans.

With the match being played outside of the international window – therefore English-based players on both sides unavailable – it being the first autumn match between these Six Nations foes, and with furore over donations to Doddie Weir’s charity this week it has had a strange feeling of a warm-up match.

Gatland was having none of that.

‘It will be a proper Test on Saturday, I can guarantee that,’ he said.

‘We are not going out there to play festival rugby – we want to play attractive but smart and winning rugby.’

He also piled pressure on rookie fly-half Adam Hastings, making his first start against a Tier One Test nation on Saturday, warning the 22-year-old son of Scottish legend Gavin to expect an onslaught.

‘Hastings has had some international experience,’ added Gatland, noting caps against the USA, Canada and Argentina.

‘But there will be some pressure on him to play in Cardiff. We have got to put as much pressure on him as we possibly can.

‘If a player is playing up at the next level of physicality and intensity that is what we need to bring to make it difficult for him.

‘No doubt he is a quality player with a pretty good pedigree. I’m sure he’s had plenty of advice about handling the pressure.

‘I think it is going to be tough, physical encounter.’ 

Wales stunned Scotland here in February. Gregor Townsend’s side came swaggering, Gatland gleefully allowed the Scots to talk themselves up and then blitzed them 34-7.

This match has had a strange feeling of a warm-up match but Gatland was having none of that

This match has had a strange feeling of a warm-up match but Gatland was having none of that

He also piled pressure on Scotland's Adam Hastings who will be starting in Cardiff on Saturday

He also piled pressure on Scotland’s Adam Hastings who will be starting in Cardiff on Saturday

And it seems he still does not think his side were given enough credit for that win.

‘They’re talking about the fact that they got their preparation wrong from the last game – it wasn’t about a good Wales performance it was about how poorly they had prepared,’ he said.

‘That puts things in perspective for us to make sure we are mentally on our game. We have to bring the right sort of physicality for a Test match against a Tier One nation.

‘I’d presume the message from Gregor will be to stay in the arm wrestle as long as they can, to pressurise us, and take the opportunities that way.

‘That’s why I’m expecting the game to be so physical this weekend. The players who were involved last year will be disappointed with the result and the performance.

‘A lot of them will be wanting to rectify that.’ 

Not content solely throwing grenades at his opponents, Gatland also fired a rocket up his own tight-head prop too.

Dillon Lewis, 22, was out of favour under former Cardiff Blues boss Danny Wilson, who now coaches the Scotland pack – and Gatland wants his starting No 3 to prove a point.

Wales stunned Scotland in February when Gregor Townsend's side came swaggering in

Wales stunned Scotland in February when Gregor Townsend’s side came swaggering in

‘Danny Wilson unfortunately did not rate Dillon that highly,’ he said. ‘So there is a bit motivation in Dillon wanting to go out there and do well.’ 

Gatland has kept in contact with his coaches while he has been away, but is back in full charge now. He has eight Lions in his side, sprinkled with new names – such as sevens star Luke Morgan.

The 26-year-old is Wales’ all-time top points and try-scorer in the shorter form, but is now viewed as a World Cup bolter on the wing.

‘He has taken his opportunities for the Ospreys and is scoring tries,’ said Gatland.

‘Shaun Edwards has been really happy with the way he has defended. There is a little bit of X-factor about him so there is a bit of competition between him and Steff Evans.’ 

With Ellis Jenkins (shoulder) and Rhys Patchell (concussion) not yet fit, Dan Lydiate and Gareth Anscombe play flanker and fly-half respectively – and Jonathan Davies returns for his first cap in a year after spending months out having suffered a horror foot injury against Australia last autumn.

Wales’ team may be a touch experimental, but Gatland did not fly back to mess about.  

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