Gatland wary of battered England

2015-01-28 15:55
Warren Gatland (AFP)

London - Wales coach Warren Gatland has insisted England's injury crisis won't give his side an advantage when they meet in their Six Nations opener in Cardiff next month.

Just over a fortnight out from the Millennium Stadium meeting on February 6, England coach Stuart Lancaster still cannot be certain of his first-choice side with flyhalf Owen Farrell, ruled out of the tournament completely on Tuesday, the latest player to join a growing Red Rose injury list.

Wales, by contrast, can look forward to fielding a relatively settled side, with most of their senior players fully fit.

However, Gatland - speaking at the tournament launch in London on Wednesday - said England's playing resources meant they could cope with a raft of injuries.

"We have to make sure we are not distracted by that sort of chat," said Gatland.

"England have so much strength in depth I don't think it matters who they pick," the New Zealander added.

"Last year they were able to go to New Zealand and push the All Blacks really close in that first game (of the tour) and then make a number of changes the for second and third Tests.

"For us it's a pretty settled squad, we haven't got too many injuries...we're really excited about Friday week."

The upcoming Six Nations Wales-England clash has added significance given the teams are in the same pool at the World Cup in England later in the year, when they will meet at Twickenham.

England's last trip to Cardiff two years ago saw their dreams of a Grand Slam evaporate with a 30-3 thrashing by eventual champions Wales.

But last year England won 29-18 at Twickenham.

"It's a tough game for both of us," said Gatland.

"Both of us have got some baggage to get rid of. We lost last year at Twickenham in a game we didn't play well in and for England two years ago a lot of people are still talking about what happened.

"They will have learnt from that experience two years ago, the players that were involved in that."

Gatland coached the 2013 British and Irish Lions to a series victory in Australia.

But his record in charge of Wales in matches against the southern hemisphere 'big three' of New Zealand, South Africa and Australia has been a running sore.

Criticism, however, on that front was stemmed by a morale-boosting 12-6 victory at home to the Springboks in November -- only Wales's second win in 28 Tests against the 'big three' under Gatland.

"There were a huge amount of positives in the autumn," said Gatland, who took Wales to the semi-finals of the 2011 World Cup.

"To go out and then keep South Africa's a long time since any side has done that.

"Even though the scoreline was close, we probably missed 15-20 points on offer to us but it was important to win that game and get that monkey off our back."

Now Gatland said Wales's aim was to regin the Six Nations title they last won in 2013, having finished third behind champions Ireland and runners-up England last season.

"This tournament is definitely about winning. We used the autumn, when there were no points at stake, to try some combinations.

"For all of us there's a lot of prestige at stake about winning the Six Nations. The expectation in Wales is for us to win."

However, Gatland said it was impossible to ignore the looming World Cup completely.

"It's important you win and get some confidence and the in back of our minds we're all thinking about the next six months in terms of preparation for the World Cup."

Read more on:    warren gatland  |  rugby

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