Gatland rings changes after great Wales giveaway

Warren Gatland's charitable side went missing in the immediate aftermath of Wales's dull draw with Fiji on Friday night, when for the first time in international rugby a try was signalled to the crowd by Pudsey Bear. The "BBC Children in Need" match attracted thousands of youngsters to the Millennium Stadium, many of them keen to cheer the new teenage star George North, but Gatland's announcement almost as soon as the final whistle went that the captaincy would pass from Ryan Jones to Matthew Rees for next Saturday's ever more daunting visit of the All Blacks surprised some who are much longer in the tooth.

"It's certainly not something he'd normally do," said the back-rower Jonathan Thomas, when asked about Gatland's dressing-room revelation, which was then repeated to the media. "I'm not too sure why he said that. He was angry, we were all gutted as players and Gats as head coach was fuming about the way we played, full stop."

Rees, the Scarlets hooker who is a less demonstrative and less experienced captain than Jones, has got the nod in part because he is guaranteed his place against New Zealand. A rejigged back row may see the improving Dan Lydiate combine with Thomas and Martyn Williams, with Andy Powell blasting off the bench, and Jones's place in the squad of 22 uncertain.

It may also be that Gatland, with two wins in his last 12 matches (albeit,six of them against Tri-Nations teams), yet the ink still wet on a contract extended to 2015, considered a positive act of any description was his highest priority after a match full of errors; not least Jones's in diving at the feet of Ifereimi Rawaqa behind a ruck to concede the added-time penalty which allowed Fiji to make the final score 16-16. Tellingly, there were no exultant celebrations from the Islanders, just a shake of hands and a knowing look into their opponents' eyes. The teams will meet again in the World Cup in 10 months' time, and festering disappointment is not in Gatland's make-up. Rees promised yesterday he would gather the senior players tomorrow for a high-level pow-wow. As Thomas put it: "We're bitterly disappointed at the way we played and we're ashamed of that result. We've just go to look at staying tight as a group now, with a big game next week. We know we can compete against the best sides, we showed that in glimpses in the summer against New Zealand. But we have to improve a hell of a lot from tonight."

Albert Vulivuli's try for Fiji in the 37th minute – from one of several duff Wales line-outs – was referred to the television official, and the verdict appeared on the stadium's big screens with an animated Pudsey giving the thumbs-up. To a man, the disconsolate Welsh players thanked the crowd of 52,000 – even if many of them seemed immune to the dire stuff played in front of them. A group of 60 lads from Dyffryn Taf School in Whitland wore scarlet cowboy hats and waved their "North is our new hero" banner, fashioned from a sheet. When the object of their affections was denied a probable try by Lee Byrne's failure to give an outside pass, they simply got on with starting another Mexican wave.

North had scored two tries on his debut in the 29-25 defeat by South Africa the previous week, and had a couple of runs against the Fijians which showed a lovely sidestep to go with the power of his 6ft 4ins frame. In the absence of the injured Shane Williams and Leigh Halfpenny, he looks likely to start against the All Blacks, possibly with the recalled Chris Czekaj. "If we play the same way next week we'll get battered," said Lydiate. It was all enough to frighten the kids but they are made of stern stuff in the Valleys and Gatland will expect that by fielding something closer to his first-choice team they will show that on Saturday.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Sport
Adnan Januzaj and Gareth Bale
footballManchester United set to loan out Januzaj to make room for Bale - if a move for the Welshman firms up
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister in Game of Thrones
film
News
i100
Sport
Yaya Sanogo, Mats Hummels, Troy Deeney and Adnan Januzaj
footballMost Premier League sides are after a striker, but here's a full run down of the ins and outs that could happen over the next month
News
Nigel Farage celebrates with a pint after early local election results in the Hoy and Helmet pub in South Benfleet in Essex
peopleHe has shaped British politics 'for good or ill'
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

War with Isis: The West needs more than a White Knight

The West needs more than a White Knight

Despite billions spent on weapons, the US has not been able to counter Isis's gruesome tactics, says Patrick Cockburn
Return to Helmand: Private Davey Graham recalls the day he was shot by the Taliban

'The day I was shot by the Taliban'

Private Davey Graham was shot five times during an ambush in 2007 - it was the first, controversial photograph to show the dangers our soldiers faced in Helmand province
Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Many flyers are failing to claim compensation to which they are entitled, a new survey has found
The stories that defined 2014: From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions

The stories that defined 2014

From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions
Stoke-on-Trent becomes first British city to be classified as 'disaster resilient' by the United Nations

Disaster looming? Now you know where to head...

Which British city has become the first to be awarded special 'resilience' status by the UN?
Finally, a diet that works: Californian pastor's wildly popular Daniel Plan has seen his congregation greatly reduced

Finally, a diet that works

Californian pastor's wildly popular Daniel Plan has seen his congregation greatly reduced
Say it with... lyrics: The power of song was never greater, according to our internet searches

Say it with... lyrics

The power of song was never greater, according to our internet searches
Professor Danielle George: On a mission to bring back the art of 'thinkering'

The joys of 'thinkering'

Professor Danielle George on why we have to nurture tomorrow's scientists today
Monique Roffey: The author on father figures, the nation's narcissism and New Year reflections

Monique Roffey interview

The author on father figures, the nation's narcissism and New Year reflections
Introducing my anti-heroes of 2014

Introducing my anti-heroes of 2014

Their outrageousness and originality makes the world a bit more interesting, says Ellen E Jones
DJ Taylor: Good taste? It's all a matter of timing...

Good taste? It's all a matter of timing...

It has been hard to form generally accepted cultural standards since the middle of the 19th century – and the disintegration is only going to accelerate, says DJ Taylor
Olivia Jacobs & Ben Caplan: 'Ben thought the play was called 'Christian Love'. It was 'Christie in Love' - about a necrophiliac serial killer'

How we met

Olivia Jacobs and Ben Caplan
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's breakfasts will revitalise you in time for the New Year

Bill Granger's healthy breakfasts

Our chef's healthy recipes are perfect if you've overindulged during the festive season
Transfer guide: From Arsenal to West Ham - what does your club need in the January transfer window?

Who does your club need in the transfer window?

Most Premier League sides are after a striker, but here's a full run down of the ins and outs that could happen over the next month
The Last Word: From aliens at FA to yak’s milk in the Tour, here’s to 2015

Michael Calvin's Last Word

From aliens at FA to yak’s milk in the Tour, here’s to 2015