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Gatland wants to spoil party

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Gatland hoping to make 31-man selection hard for Eddie Jones

By PA Authors
By Online Editors

Warren Gatland wants Wales to spoil England’s party this weekend and make things difficult for Eddie Jones’ World Cup squad selection.

England boss Jones will name his 31-man group for Japan on Monday – 24 hours after an opening World Cup warm-up clash against Wales and nearly four weeks ahead of the tournament’s squad deadline.

Wales, though, play three Tests before Gatland unveils his squad on September 1, including home and away appointments with England that start at Twickenham on Sunday.

“He (Jones) must be very clear in his own mind what he thinks his squad is going to be,” Wales head coach Gatland said.

“Players get an opportunity on Sunday to put their hands up.

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“Sometimes, it’s a positive when you name your squad early. The players have clarity and you can work with that squad over a period.

“I am sure they’ll have more than the 31 in training. They have the ability to bring others in as a wider training group, and if they pick up injuries, they can add players – whether that’s before they go to Japan or during the tournament.

“I am really looking forward to Sunday. I’m excited about that and the pressure on our players playing against an unfamiliar England side.

“There will be external expectation put on us, and we need to embrace that and go into the game with confidence. Hopefully, we can spoil their party and make Monday difficult for them in terms of selection.”

Gatland, who fields 13 of the team that started a Six Nations title and Grand Slam-clinching victory over Ireland in March, said there had been no conversations with his England counterpart over any joint selection approach to the two games.

“No, there hasn’t been any talk about that,” added Gatland.

“I’ve spoken to (Ireland head coach) Joe Schmidt about the two games we play with each other, so we are kind of on the same page about what we’re going to do with the Irish games.

“The (Wales) coaches are catching up with Eddie over dinner (on Friday), so I’m sure there will be a little bit of banter and chat.”

Wales’ busy four-game World Cup preparation schedule has been criticised in some quarters, especially given injury risks. In Wales’ last match before the 2015 World Cup, Gatland saw Leigh Halfpenny and Rhys Webb suffer tournament-ending injuries.

“The criticism is fair,” Gatland said. “You can’t get it right all the time. You are trying to negotiate warm-up games with sides and trying to get the balance right.

“Four years ago, we were supposed to play England home and away, and that got called off because we ended up in the same (World Cup) pool.

“I think the England games are always a good contest for us. You may have wanted three (games), or potentially not quite so strong opposition.

“But you go into negotiations, and sometimes you have got to accept what has been delivered.

“For us, I think the fact we are in such a good place – sort of mentally and the depth we’ve created in the squad – we can go in with some confidence and maybe not pick up too many injuries.”

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Gatland hoping to make 31-man selection hard for Eddie Jones