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Six Nations 2024 Championship in focus: Can Warren Gatland’s inexperienced, injury-ravaged Wales contend? | Rugby Union Information

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Wales have seen a number of skilled gamers retire, a number of key males decide up accidents, and largely poor type for over two years now. What can we anticipate from Warren Gatland’s facet in 2024?

Three of Wales’ final 4 Six Nations campaigns have seen them end fifth. In 2023, Wales have been closely overwhelmed at residence to Eire, away to Scotland and France, and misplaced at residence to England too. On the Rugby World Cup within the autumn, they misplaced to a weak Argentina facet within the quarters.

An ageing squad has largely retired, however Wales’ younger gamers severely lack Check expertise and are unproven as as to whether they’re ok for the highest stage of rugby union. A sure star has chosen to defect to NFL too.

Gatland, Wales head coach for 12 years between 2007 and 2019, returned final 12 months however has struggled to have an effect, chopping and altering a facet which has been outplayed by so many over the previous few seasons.

We have a look at the important thing points of their 2024 squad as they give the impression of being to rediscover some type towards Scotland in Cardiff first up…

Fixtures

  • Scotland – Principality Stadium – Saturday, February 3 – 4.45pm (GMT)
  • England – Twickenham – Saturday, February 10 – 4.45pm (GMT)
  • Eire – Aviva Stadium – Saturday, February 24 – 2.15pm (GMT)
  • France – Principality Stadium – Sunday, March 10 – 3pm (GMT)
  • Italy – Principality Stadium – Saturday, March 18 – 2.15pm (GMT)

What’s modified?

The headline change in Wales camp got here solely this month, when star wing Louis Rees-Zammit shocked the world of rugby by saying he was leaving the game to chase his dream of a profession in NFL.

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Louis Rees-Zammit opened up on his choice to hitch the NFL’s worldwide participant pathway programme

Gatland later revealed he solely discovered about Rees-Zammit’s choice an hour earlier than he was set to call his Wales squad for the Six Nations, whereas the participant himself had solely been invited to the NFL’s worldwide participant pathway programme in Florida two days earlier.

“I wish to take this chance to announce a big profession choice that I’ve taken after cautious consideration. In a transfer that I’m extraordinarily enthusiastic about, I can affirm that I will probably be becoming a member of the NFL’s Worldwide Participant Pathway program (IPP) in pursuit of incomes a spot on an NFL roster in america for 2024,” Rees-Zammit revealed by way of X (previously Twitter).

“Opting to step away from worldwide rugby on the eve of the Six Nations has been a painstaking choice, however I’m extraordinarily excited to take up a as soon as in a lifetime alternative to pursue a brand new problem.”

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Gatland admitted the information of Rees-Zammit’s choice to pursue a profession in NFL got here as ‘a shock’

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Rees-Zammit reveals what place he wish to play as he units his sights on the NFL

The information got here as a specific blow to Gatland and Wales, with quite a lot of skilled gamers having already departed the set-up over the past 12 months.

Fly-half Dan Biggar and full-back Leigh Halfpenny retired for the reason that World Cup, whereas back-three Liam Williams moved to play membership rugby in Japan. Second row Alun Wyn Jones and back-row Justin Tipuric retired earlier than the event.

Biggar
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Dan Biggar is amongst a number of skilled Wales gamers to have retired over the past 12 months

Wales even have a brand new captain within the form of 21-year-old second row Dafydd Jenkins.

Jenkins captains an inexperienced squad which has a median age of simply 25, 5 uncapped gamers, and an extra eight in line to make their Six Nations debuts.

Simply 18 of Wales’ 33-player World Cup squad have been named in Gatland’s 34-player Six Nations panel.

Wales' Dafydd Jenkins during the Autumn International match at the Principality Stadium, Cardiff.
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Wales second row Dafydd Jenkins, 21, has been named captain by Gatland

What’s sizzling?

Taking a look at issues as an entire, the omens do not seem too sort for Wales heading into this championship.

Gatland and Wales have recognized this era of transition from huge expertise to severe-lack-thereof has been coming for a while, and the 60-year-old head coach has chosen to see the deserves of such a scenario versus its pitfalls.

“It’s extremely thrilling. In case you have a look at the squad we have now obtained some expertise, we have got some expertise there from gamers we had with us on the World Cup.

“We now have misplaced a variety of expertise, however it’s a new cycle for us to undergo. We in all probability want somewhat little bit of time and somewhat little bit of endurance from the Welsh public.

“I feel that regardless of all of the negativity round Welsh rugby I feel there are a variety of positives.

“There are a variety of negatives financially, however the monetary challenges imply that we’re giving alternatives to a number of kids that we could not have seen a number of years in the past, and for me that may be a huge Positive.

“We’re not going to profit within the brief time period, however I feel that within the subsequent three or 4 years we’re going to profit from us giving them these probabilities.

“Regardless of what persons are speaking about, the monetary challenges, I see it otherwise as an actual Positive and an actual probability for a reset in Welsh rugby that’s going to place us in good stead over the following few years.”

Wales v Argentina - Autumn International - Principality Stadium
A general view of Gilbert match balls before the Autumn International match at the Principality Stadium, Cardiff. Picture date: Saturday November 12, 2022.
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Welsh Rugby has undergone extreme monetary disruption in current seasons

New captain Jenkins seems a participant Wales will look to construct a facet round for years to come back, with the 21-year-old changing into the youngest participant ever to captain a Premiership facet final season when he led Exeter in November 2022, and has since captained the Chiefs on quite a few different events.

Jenkins will grow to be the youngest participant to captain Wales since 1968 throughout this Six Nations, and the second youngest ever after the nice Gareth Edwards.

What’s not?

It is tough to look previous the Rees-Zammit information on this explicit part, whose announcement got here firmly out of the blue.

The 22-year-old wing scored 5 tries in 5 fixtures for Wales on the Rugby World Cup, and performed for membership Gloucester as not too long ago as January 13, scoring a attempt, with no imminent hyperlink to the dramatic profession change till the participant’s announcement.

Gatland
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Gatland’s Wales head into the championship with few giving them an opportunity of success

Rees-Zammit has been a pivotal performer for Wales since breaking into the facet in 2020 – scoring 14 tries in 31 Assessments and touring with the British and Irish Lions in 2021. His out-and-out tempo and talent to complete probabilities marked him out as an distinctive backline expertise and risk.

The thrilling again had additionally scored 38 tries in 69 appearances for Premiership facet Gloucester, and his sudden departure can have shocked and rocked Wales’ teaching set-up.

Along with quite a few retirements, Wales even have quite a lot of accidents at current.

Beautifully gifted back-row Jac Morgan, who was named co-captain of Wales on the World Cup, will miss the remainder of the season as a consequence of a knee damage, whereas hooker Ken Owens (again), No 8 Taulupe Faletau (arm), lock/flanker Christ Tshiunza (foot), flanker Taine Plumtree (shoulder) and hooker Dewi Lake (hamstring) are all out too.

Jac Morgan of Wales
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Jac Morgan, who co-captained Wales through the Rugby World Cup, has been dominated out for the season as a consequence of a knee damage

A squad with such a dearth of expertise and caps will probably be vastly up towards it to succeed towards opposition the power of France, Eire, Scotland and England, whereas Wales’ type has been actually dreadful.

Throughout 2022 and 2023, Wales performed in 25 Assessments and gained solely 9 of them. Delve additional and there is much more concern, with three of these wins coming towards Portugal, Georgia and Italy, however historic residence defeats to the Azzurri and Los Lelos additionally recorded.

Regardless of being on the far softer facet of the World Cup draw, Wales didn’t take benefit as they limped out to a poor Argentina facet in Marseille – a Pumas facet who misplaced their semi-final towards New Zealand 44-6.

It will be an enormous shock if Wales have been in a position to arrest such a dramatic slide in 2024. Their opening fixture at residence to Scotland is huge.

Championship report

Six Nations since 2000: Six-time winners (2005, 2008, 2012, 2013, 2019, 2021)

General: 28 titles outright (1893, 1900, 1902, 1905, 1908, 1909, 1911, 1922, 1931, 1936, 1950, 1952, 1956, 1965, 1966, 1969, 1971, 1975, 1976, 1978, 1979, 1994, 2005, 2008, 2012, 2013, 2019, 2021)

Wales’ 34-player squad for the 2023 Six Nations:

Forwards (19): Corey Domachowski, Kemsley Mathias, Gareth Thomas, Elliot Dee, Ryan Elias, Evan Lloyd, Keiron Assiratti, Leon Brown, Archie Griffin, Adam Beard, Dafydd Jenkins (c), Will Rowlands, Teddy Williams, Taine Basham, James Botham, Alex Mann, Mackenzie Martin, Tommy Reffell, Aaron Wainwright.

Backs (15): Gareth Davies, Kieran Hardy, Tomos Williams, Sam Costelow, Cai Evans, Ioan Lloyd, Mason Grady, George North, Joe Roberts, Nick Tompkins, Owen Watkin, Josh Adams, Rio Dyer, Tom Rogers, Cameron Winnett.



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