Gatland underlines Wales commitment

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The Independent Online

Wales coach Warren Gatland has committed himself to the job until the end of the 2011 World Cup despite his feelings on the club-versus-country row over the release of players.

The New Zealander suggested last week he had been forced to consider his position after struggling to get the four regions to make their international players available for a three-day Wales camp.

It caused a political storm within Welsh rugby which came to a head last Friday when the Welsh Rugby Union won a High Court decision to get the players released by the regions.

That allowed Gatland to have a three-day camp this week with most of his 32-man squad.

The only three players who have been missing are English-based players Dwayne Peel and Eifion Roberts, both of Sales Sharks, and Gloucester scrum-half Gareth Cooper.

Asked about being disillusioned about his job, Gatland said: "I said I was frustrated rather than disillusioned.

"But I would like to say I am completely committed to Welsh rugby and I am not going anywhere.

"I have enjoyed the job over the last 12 months.

"You get your ups and downs but I am really excited about the autumn series."

WRU chief executive Roger Lewis stressed he was always confident Gatland would commit to Wales.

"I never had any doubt at all about Warren's commitment to Welsh rugby whatsoever," Lewis said.

"I speak of his as a friend as well as a colleague and Warren is totally committed to Wales and to take us through to the next World Cup in 2011."

Meanwhile, Wales look certain to head into their opening encounter of their four-match autumn series against world champions South Africa at the Millennium Stadium on Saturday week without Scarlets wing Mark Jones.

Jones damaged his knee while attempting to score late on in last Friday's EDF Energy Cup win over Bristol.

He limped off after 67 minutes and has yet to train during Gatland's brief national squad get-together at the Vale of Glamorgan this week.

"Mark Jones has not trained this week and he is very doubtful for South Africa," confirmed Gatland.

"His knee is quite puffy and he is limping around so we will wait and see."

If Jones is ruled out, that could allow 19-year-old Cardiff Blues wing Leigh Halfpenny to make his debut after showing some impressive form during the opening two months of the season.

Gatland admitted that he knows his starting line-up for the South Africa clash, and he has revealed he wants to involve his entire squad in the first two matches.

Wales play Canada on November 14 before taking on New Zealand (November 22) and Australia (November 29).

Gatland was speaking at the unveiling of Welsh rugby's new £2million centre of excellence at the Vale of Glamorgan, west of Cardiff, a facility which will include state-of-the-art indoor and outdoor training pitches when it is completed in October 2009.

He said: "This is a fantastic facility and when it is finished it will be absolutely world-class. It is all about putting structures in place and there are no excuses.

"If we provide the best facilities we can offer no excuses for us to go out there and perform.

"This will be on a par and will be better than any national team has available to them in the world.

"The pitches will be of a standard that will resemble what they play on a regular basis on a match day."

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