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Former England player predicts Wales for the Wooden Spoon

By Ian Cameron
Warren Gatland - PA

A former England Sevens captain has predicted that Warren Gatland’s Wales could end up with the Wooden Spoon in this year’s Six Nations, the mythical trophy for the team that finishes bottom of the tournament table.

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Ireland player Wales at the Principality Stadium this weekend, a venue they haven’t won at for a decade. It promises to be a fascinating encounter, with Gatland beginning his second spell as Wales head coach and Ireland arriving in the Welsh capital following a year that saw them rise to world rugby’s summit.

Wales enjoyed a golden era when Gatland was head coach between 2008 and 2019, highlighted by four Six Nations titles, three Grand Slams and two World Cup semi-finals. The New Zealander is now back for more, replacing Wayne Pivac following a miserable 12 months when Wales won just three Tests and suffered humiliating home defeats against Italy and Georgia.

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There is a degree of symmetry, provided by the Ospreys, between Gatland’s first game as Wales head coach 15 years ago and Saturday’s encounter that kicks off his second stint at the helm.

Gatland picked 13 Ospreys – the only exceptions were Scarlets wing Mark Jones and Cardiff flanker Martyn Williams – for Wales’ victorious 2008 Six Nations opener against England, and he has chosen eight in his starting XV this time around with combinations key through both centres, props, locks and flankers. Ospreys are fresh from notable victories over French champions Montpellier and English champions Leicester, so confidence is high. It could prove another selection master-stroke.

Yet despite the return of Gatland, former England Sevens skipper and Stade Francais player Ollie Phillips believes Wales could be in line for the Wooden Spoon.

“This year’s Six Nations is arguably both the most predictable and the least predictable in a long time – but I do think there is a good chance of Wales finishing rock bottom,” wrote Phillips in his City AM column. “Wales’s first game against Ireland in Cardiff has a make or break feel for returning head coach Warren Gatland.

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“If they lose it I think there’s a real chance of them finishing bottom of the Six Nations table come the end of March.

“A loss at home in the opening round followed by Scotland away is a difficult task – they’ll either be facing a bunch of Scots who are on a high after beating England or a bunch of Scots who will want a reaction from losing to England. It is almost a lose-lose for the Welsh.

“So after the opening two rounds there’s a realistic prospect of Wales being two from two or none from two.”

The form-guide suggests an Ireland victory, but it is also enticingly set up for Gatland and his players to put such a script through the shredder.

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– additional reporting PA

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