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Gatland defends money-making fourth Wales Test

By Jack Davies
Wales coach Warren Gatland.

Wales coach Warren Gatland has defended the country’s traditional fourth autumn Test, pointing to the financial and developmental benefits of the fixture.

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The November internationals are now over for most nations, but Wales host South Africa in Cardiff on Saturday having played an extra match most years for more than a decade.

It is a tradition not without its critics but, for all of the negatives, the additional fixture generates vital funds to help maintain the domestic game in Wales.

“I think it’s a balancing act,” Gatland said ahead of the clash with the Springboks. “The fourth international generates a lot of money and we’ve got to be aware of that.

“Part of the union’s responsibility is to help fund the regions and keep the regions going, contracts for players and the community game, so we’re aware of that.

“The other thing is the opportunity to play against the best teams in the world. We could have easily taken different options, but I’ve always been a strong believer that the only way you get better is by playing against the best players and the best teams and the players have got an opportunity to do that on Saturday.”

Wales’ busy schedule has taken its toll, with Jonathan Davies, Liam Williams and Rhys Webb just some of the players ruled out for the weekend.

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“It’s been hard,” continued Gatland. “I think we’ve had 11 injuries or something in this campaign and given that we made a complete change for the Georgia game to give everyone an opportunity, yeah it’s been tough from that perspective.

“I’m not sure of the reason because we haven’t done anything differently. We had a lot of players come in carrying niggles and knocks but we have unfortunately picked up quite a few injuries.

“I think from the original squad that we selected we’re down to about 25 of those players that we can select from. So we’re lucky enough that we’ve still got cover to be able to pick a squad, but it has been a bit of a challenge.”

One of the drawbacks of the fourth Test is the availability of Welsh players playing for English clubs, with only Bath’s Taulupe Faletau sticking around to face South Africa.

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Asked why Faletau was allowed to stay and others left the squad, Gatland commented: “I’m not very clear on it either. All I know is that he’s told us he’s available for this game and the others aren’t available.

“I don’t know what agreements all the players have with the clubs and who’s been released. We’ve just asked who’s available for these games and Toby said he was available. So that’s why he’s been selected.”

Wales lost to Australia and New Zealand either side of a hard-fought victory over Georgia in their opening three fixtures.

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Shaylen 6 hours ago
Ireland and South Africa share the same player development dilemma

These guys will be utility players Nick it cannot be helped because coaches cannot help themselves. Rassie looks at players like these and sees the ability to cover multiple positions without losing much. It allows the 6-2 or 7-1. He wont change his coaching style or strategy for one player. At provincial level players like these are indispensable. If there is an injury to your starting 12 but your back up 12 is a bit iffy then a coach is going to go with the back up 10 who is gold and who can play a good 12. Damian Willemse for the Springboks is an obvious case, for the Stormers its the same. Dobson plays him at 12 or 15, with Gelant in the team he plays 12 but if Gelant goes down he doesnt go for his back up 15, he just puts Willemse there. With Frawley its the same at international and provincial level. He just slots in wherever. Frans Steyn made a career out of it. He was much maligned though as a youngster as he never fully developed into any role. He then went to Japan and France to decide for himself what kind of player he was, put on muscle and retained his big boot, ran over players and booted the ball long and came back into the Springboks after about 3 years away and was then certain about how he wanted to play the game no matter what position. Coaches cannot help themselves because they only want what is best for their teams and that means putting your most talented players on even if it means you cause them some discomfort. Sometimes players need to decide how they want to play the game and then adapt that to every position and let the coach decide how they want to use them.

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