Six Nations 2023: It’s been tough to keep Wales players focused, says Warren Gatland – NewsEverything Wales

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Six Nations 2023: It’s been tough to keep Wales players focused, says Warren Gatland – NewsEverything Wales
Six Nations 2023: It’s been tough to keep Wales players focused, says Warren Gatland – NewsEverything Wales

Wales won three Grand Slams and four Six Nations titles during Warren Gatland's first stint in charge, between 2007 and 2019
Wales won three Grand Slams and four Six Nations titles during Warren Gatland’s first stint in charge, between 2007 and 2019
Venue: Stade de France, Paris Date: Saturday, 18 March Kick-off:14:45 GMT
Coverage: Live on S4C, BBC Radio Wales, BBC Radio Cymru, the BBC Sport website & app; live text commentary on BBC Sport website & app.

Warren Gatland says it has been a challenge to keep his players focused during a troubled Six Nations campaign.

After losing their first three games, against Ireland, Scotland and England, Wales have arrived in Paris for the tournament finale on the back of victory against Italy.

Wales almost did not play against England after threatening to strike over player contract uncertainty.

That match ultimately went ahead, but Gatland says off-field troubles have taken their toll.

When asked how he has managed to keep players focused, Gatland replied: “I don’t know if I’ve done that. It’s been a challenge.

“There has been so much going on in Welsh rugby behind the scenes that’s definitely had an impact on the players emotionally, except for the last couple of weeks when we’ve been able to focus on rugby.”

As in 2019, Gatland has based his Wales squad in Nice in between away Six Nations matches against France and Italy.

Wales will return to the same French city to face Portugal in this year’s World Cup, on 16 September.

“It’s been nice having some decent weather,” added Gatland.

“It’s been great for the players in terms of bonding and this is going to be a location for us in the World Cup, so the players have enjoyed it.

“It’s been brilliant for us to come here and be in Italy last week.

“One of the players joked we should base ourselves here full time and fly into Wales for the games.

“I thought it was a brilliant idea – get away from the fish bowl and the negativity that’s often portrayed in Wales.”

He joked: “I might put that suggestion to the board!”

When asked how far away Wales are from nailing the crucial moments in games, Gatland said “A long way, at the moment.

“We’ve got a lot of work to do in terms of that. There are a lot of areas. We need to be in better shape physically and that often fixes up a couple of those issues.

“We’ve been working hard, but we’ve seen in a few training sessions where we’ve pushed them hard physically and the accuracy went towards the end because we were blowing and fatigued.

“We weren’t accurate from a skill perspective and not making the right decisions. That’s definitely a huge focus for us.”

Gatland hopes he can restore his Wales team to the levels of four years ago, when they won the Grand Slam and reached the World Cup semi-final, where they lost to eventual winners South Africa.

“You build confidence from that, which we’ve done in the past,” said Gatland.

“Other teams used to talk about how tough we were mentally and physically.

“You look at a documentary where Rassie Erasmus (South Africa director of rugby) talks about that World Cup semi-final and how tough the Welsh boys are and won’t go away.

“That’ll be a huge focus for us building over the next couple of months. We’ve got a long way to go but we’ve been working hard on these areas each week.

“You’ve got to prioritise and focus on specific things because you can’t cover off everything.

“We’ve been trying to fix certain things up and doing a reasonable job of focusing on two or three things each week.”

Gatland getting to know his best side will also help after making 26 changes in his five selections this year.

“We said we were going to make those changes,” added Gatland.

“From the start we said we were going to give the younger members of the squad some experience at this level to try and develop them.

“We’ve still got a lot of work to do with younger players in the squad in terms of in-depth coaching over the next few months and tidying up areas where they have made mistakes.

“They would have learned a huge amount already. That’s why we gave those guys a chance and a second chance.

“Some of them do have stuff they need to do and there is quite a lot of work still to do.

“We’re confident we’ll get the in-depth detail on that stuff during that World Cup preparation.”

That is not to say Gatland is giving up Wales’ game against an in-form French side who produced a record 53-10 win over England last weekend

“We’ve prepared well this week and we know it’s going to be a real challenge for us going up to Paris,” added Gatland.

“We’ve also spoken in the group that there are a lot of our players who have had a lot of success against France. We’ve got a good record in the last number of years.

“There is no lack of confidence and self-belief that we’re capable of doing it, but it’s about being accurate.”

Gatland will be reunited this weekend with his former Wales and Wasps defence coach Shaun Edwards, who he worked with for more than 15 years.

“I’m looking forward to it,” added Gatland.

“I’m sure he’ll be pretty pumped up this weekend. It was a fantastic performance by them against England.

“They’ll be disappointed by the loss in Dublin. They’ve probably been a little bit mixed.

“They were maybe lucky to get out of the game against Italy, where they could have lost.

“They’ve had a couple of good performances and last week’s performance was definitely outstanding.”


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