Gatland sounds warning to Wales
January 13, 2009
Wales coach Warren Gatland has urged his players to accept the favourites tag and not let it disrupt their Six Nations © Getty Images
Wales boss Warren Gatland has sounded a cautionary note ahead of the Six Nations after warning his players not to become over-confident as they attempt to defend their crown.
"It will not be like last year when we caught teams on the hop," Gatland told The Western Mail. "Instead everyone is going to be targeting us, not just because of the way we played last year, but because of the way we played in the autumn as well.
"I have been thinking a lot about us handling the pressure and coping with expectation, that is the big challenge for us as coaches and the players. It will be about us continuing what we have done - and I think we have worked harder than any other team in the gym and on the training field.
"Our expectations as coaches remain really high and we have told the players to expect our environment to get even tougher going forward."
Gatland is keen for his players to accept their mantle as favourites, and ensure that they don't let it disrupt their game-plan.
"The bottom line is that we have to put our hands up and accept the favourites' tag and realise that we have to deal with that psychologically," he said. "This is new territory for Wales remember, because even after the Grand Slam of 2005 we did not go in to the following year's tournament as favourites like we do now. It is new for a lot of the players, but it is exciting and we should treat it as a positive and look forward to it."
Gatland is set to name his squad for the tournament next Monday, to allow for one last look at certain players in Heineken Cup action this weekend.
"We are going to name the squad on Monday and so for a lot of players this weekend is all-important," he said. "We are looking at three or four positions which will be decided by how players perform over this weekend. We toyed with the idea of naming the squad this week, but we wanted to give certain players the chance to state a case this weekend."
One name that may be in the hat come Monday is that of Blues fly-half Nick Robinson, who has been linked with an international recall after some assured performances at regional level.
"There are some really big games, such as the Ospreys at Perpignan and the Blues at Gloucester," said Gatland. "If players can perform in games like that, away from home, then they will be putting down a marker. Nicky Robinson has done well for the Blues, his kicking game has been good and his drop goals have taken some pressure off is team. Perhaps he could challenge the line a bit more, but we know that is something he is working on.
"Nicky is an option for us but at the moment the squad will probably be kept relatively tight. However, we are pleased with his progress. Again he has a big task at Gloucester this weekend and if a player like him can do something special in a game of that magnitude out of the blue, then it is something we will take notice of."
Concussion, relegation and the mother of all surprises - it's the Monday Maul.