Gatland has made changes to the Wales lineup for their upcoming Six Nations match against England, with North rejoining the pack.
Warren Gatland, the coach for Wales, consistently strives to stay one step ahead. This week, he has taken the lead once again by announcing his team for Saturday’s match against England 24 hours ahead of the expected schedule.
Gatland has modified the team that lost 27-26 to Scotland in the first round of the championship, with seven alterations. These changes were made due to players’ recovery from previous injuries, new injuries, and a subpar first-half performance.
Gatland has chosen to include George North in the outside centre position, replacing Owen Watkin. North, who was unable to play in the first game due to a shoulder injury, will be participating in his 119th Test match. This accounts for almost a quarter of the starting XV’s combined total of 479 caps.
Gatland has chosen both Ioan Lloyd and Tomos Williams, the two players responsible for Wales’ comeback in the second half against Scotland after being down 27-0. Sam Costelow, who played fly-half in that game, is unable to play due to injury. His teammate Gareth Davies has been removed from the squad. Kieran Hardy and Cai Evans will be replacements. Tommy Reffell returns to the flank with Alex Mann, while Gatland has also made changes to the front row by introducing Gareth Thomas, Elliot Dee, and Keiron Assiratti. Corey Domachowski and Ryan Elias have been moved to the bench, where they are joined by Will Rowlands and Taine Basham.
“We have been self-critical and demanding during this week,” stated Gatland. “Our performance in the first half did not meet our expectations. It is imperative that we do not repeat the same start this Saturday. As seen in the second half against Scotland, we have the ability to play at a high level. Our focus now is to build upon that and maintain a fast pace from the beginning.”
We must maintain precision and stay focused. This is a significant match, not only due to its historical significance and importance to everyone in Wales, but also because it presents a chance to improve our performance.
Gatland also stated that he believed England was currently undergoing a rebuilding process, as well as Wales. Among Gatland’s team, Lloyd has only appeared in three Tests, while Evans, Mann, and full-back Cameron Winnett have each played in just one. Another player, replacement prop Archie Griffin, has only played 100 minutes of rugby for Bath’s first team this season and could potentially make his debut. North, Williams, Adam Beard, and Josh Adams are the only four players in the squad with over 50 caps, with Adams retaining his spot despite being publicly criticized by Gatland last week.
Since the 2015 World Cup, Wales has not emerged victorious over England at Twickenham. However, in the past three Tests, the margin of victory has been close with only one score separating the two teams. Despite this, Gatland remains optimistic and states, “We are heading there with a strong sense of confidence and the ability to build upon our performance in the second half, as well as belief in ourselves.”