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
peopleFrankie Boyle responds to referendum result in characteristically offensive style
Life and Style
Couples have been having sex less in 2014, according to a new survey
New Articles
i100... with this review
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Holly's review of Peterborough's Pizza Express quickly went viral on social media
footballTim Sherwood: This might be th match to wake up Manchester City
Arts and Entertainment
musicHow female vocalists are now writing their own hits
New Articles
Arts and Entertainment
musicBiographer Hunter Davies has collected nearly a hundred original manuscripts
Blahnik says: 'I think I understand the English more than they do themselves'
Arts and Entertainment
Michelle Dockery as Lady Mary Crawley in Downton Abbey
TVInside Downton Abbey series 5
Life and Style
The term 'normcore' was given the oxygen of publicity by New York magazine during the autumn/winter shows in Paris in February
fashionWhen is a trend a non-trend? When it's Normcore, since you ask
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

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

Career Services

Day In a Page

Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam