Six Nations 2014: Warren Gatland spoilt for choice as Wales go for hat-trick

 

Warren Gatland has a propensity for mind games but when he said his team for the start of Wales' challenge for a hat-trick of Six Nations titles was arguably his hardest selection, there was a ring of truth.

During the November internationals, Gatland was beset by a litany of key injuries but now he has the rarity of a virtually full-strength squad to select from. Such is the battle for places that not even being match-fit is sufficient to make the starting line-up for even the biggest names.

Captain Sam Warburton, despite being declared fit, will start the match against Italy from the bench, with Alun Wyn Jones taking over the captaincy, as he did for the British & Irish Lions finale when Warburton was unfit.

But merely being named in the squad following a shoulder injury which has ruled Warburton out since the Test against Australia two months ago is an indicator of how integral he is to Gatland's plans.

Warburton could yet start the match. Dan Lydiate was included in the starting line-up but he is a doubt, having left the camp early Tuesday to fly to Paris after his girlfriend went into labour.

Warburton is not the only fit player to miss out on a start. Gethin Jenkins was cleared for his 102nd Test at prop but the Wales management opted against it because of his injury problems in recent Six Nations campaigns, while the centre Jonathan Davies, recovering from a pectoral muscle injury, will play for the Scarlets at the weekend as Wales host Italy at the Millennium Stadium.

Of his selections, Gatland admitted: "This is the hardest team we've picked for a long time, whether it's the starting XV or the bench."

Dan Biggar, who was integral to Wales' Six Nations title win a year ago, can consider himself unlucky to miss out to Rhys Priestland at fly-half and Gatland admitted as much, reasoning the lack of runners at the Ospreys, in contrast to Wales' rampant back line, had harshly counted against him. Biggar does not even make the bench, the versatility of James Hook offering more options as and when required.

A year ago, Wales had a dire opening 40 minutes to their Six Nations against Ireland. The threat provided by the Azzurri will be a softer start but Gatland is wary of complacency, saying: "We need to make sure we get out of the blocks and don't get caught with our pants down."

He was asked how important history was, as Wales attempt to be the first team to win a hat-trick of Six Nations titles. "Massive," he said. "There's the potential to do something special. It's nice to talk about that and focus on that."

Suggested Topics
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
Child's play: letting young people roam outdoors directly contradicts the current climate
lifeHow much independence should children have?
Arts and Entertainment
Tycoons' text: Warren Buffett and Bill Gates both cite John Brookes' 'Business Adventures' as their favourite book
booksFind out why America's richest men are reading John Brookes
Arts and Entertainment
<p><strong>2008</strong></p>
<p>Troubled actor Robert Downey Jr cements his comeback from drug problems by bagging the lead role in Iron Man. Two further films follow</p>
filmRobert Downey Jr named Hollywood's highest paid actor for second year running
Life and Style
Dale Bolinger arranged to meet the girl via a fetish website
life
Property
Sign here, please: Magna Carta Island
propertyYours for a cool £4m
Life and Style
tech
News
The Commonwealth flag flies outside Westminster Abbey in central London
news
Arts and Entertainment
Struggling actors who scrape a living working in repertory theatres should get paid a 'living wage', Sir Ian McKellen has claimed
theatre
Extras
indybest
News
Skye McCole Bartusiak's mother said she didn't use drink or drugs
peopleActress was known for role in Mel Gibson film The Patriot
Arts and Entertainment
tvWebsite will allow you to watch all 522 shows on-demand
Caption competition
Caption competition
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

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

Career Services

Day In a Page

Some are reformed drug addicts. Some are single mums. All are on benefits. But now these so-called 'scroungers’ are fighting back

The 'scroungers’ fight back

The welfare claimants battling to alter stereotypes
Amazing video shows Nasa 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action

Fireballs in space

Amazing video shows Nasa's 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action
A Bible for billionaires

A Bible for billionaires

Find out why America's richest men are reading John Brookes
Paranoid parenting is on the rise - and our children are suffering because of it

Paranoid parenting is on the rise

And our children are suffering because of it
For sale: Island where the Magna Carta was sealed

Magna Carta Island goes on sale

Yours for a cool £4m
Phone hacking scandal special report: The slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

The hacker's tale: the slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

Glenn Mulcaire was jailed for six months for intercepting phone messages. James Hanning tells his story in a new book. This is an extract
We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

Child abusers are not all the same, yet the idea of treating them differently in relation to the severity of their crimes has somehow become controversial
The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

For instance, did Isis kill the Israeli teenagers to trigger a war, asks Patrick Cockburn
Alistair Carmichael: 'The UK as a whole is greater than the sum of its parts'

Alistair Carmichael: 'The UK as a whole is greater than the sum of its parts'

Meet the man who doesn't want to go down in history as the country's last Scottish Secretary
Legoland Windsor's master model-makers reveal the tricks of their trade (including how to stop the kids wrecking your Eiffel Tower)

Meet the people who play with Lego for a living

They are the master builders: Lego's crack team of model-makers, who have just glued down the last of 650,000 bricks as they recreate Paris in Windsor. Susie Mesure goes behind the scenes
The 20 best days out for the summer holidays: From Spitfires to summer ferry sailings

20 best days out for the summer holidays

From summer ferry sailings in Tyne and Wear and adventure days at Bear Grylls Survival Academy to Spitfires at the Imperial War Museum Duxford and bog-snorkelling at the World Alternative Games...
Open-air theatres: If all the world is a stage, then everyone gets in on the act

All the wood’s a stage

Open-air productions are the cue for better box-office receipts, new audiences, more interesting artistic challenges – and a picnic
Rand Paul is a Republican with an eye on the world

Rupert Cornwell: A Republican with an eye on the world

Rand Paul is laying out his presidential stall by taking on his party's disastrous record on foreign policy
Self-preservation society: Pickles are moving from the side of your plate to become the star dish

Self-preservation society

Pickles are moving from the side of your plate to become the star dish
Generation gap opens a career sinkhole

Britons live ever longer, but still society persists in glorifying youth

We are living longer but considered 'past it' younger, the reshuffle suggests. There may be trouble ahead, says DJ Taylor