Gatland pleased with strength in depth
Wales will go into Saturday's RBS 6 Nations clash against Italy with coach Warren Gatland relishing the competition for places throughout his title-chasing squad.
Gatland believes strength in depth has become a key element of Wales' success. And that is exactly what he wants building towards this summer's three-Test Australia tour and the November international schedule highlighted by an appointment with world champions New Zealand.
"This is a tough team to get into now - and that is what we want," he said. "There are a lot of players who are saying to themselves 'don't give anyone else a chance'. There is depth and competition."
He added: "It is great for the players who get a chance to start, but they all know there are players breathing down their necks. It's a nice place for coaches to be in, having a confident, hard-working squad.
"We have a great work ethic within the team, and I can't emphasise enough just how professional these players are and the extras they do after training. They are a real credit to Wales and Welsh rugby.
"We have stressed to all the players that it is not just about the 22 who get picked on match-day, it is how they react to being a part of the squad and being supportive to the others.
"There is a lot to aim at - the Six Nations, a Test against the Barbarians, a three-Test series in Australia and a game against the Brumbies.
"There is plenty to look forward to for the 35-or-so players who are going to be a part of this Welsh squad. We think they could be part of something special over the next two or three years."