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Gatland 'reasonably clear' on team

Warren Gatland claims he is "reasonably clear" on the composition of his starting line-up for Saturday's autumn Test series opener against Australia in Cardiff.

Injuries mean the New Zealander cannot call on full-back Lee Byrne, wing Leigh Halfpenny, centre Jonathan Davies or back-row forward Ryan Jones. That quartet's absence has undoubtedly weakened Welsh chances of improving their record against Tri Nations opposition during Gatland's coaching reign, which currently stands at one win from nine starts.

"We are reasonably clear in our own minds what the side might be - we will just make the decision on Thursday," said Gatland, whose original intention had been to name his line-up on Tuesday.

Centre James Hook is a probable replacement for Byrne, Tom Shanklin and Andrew Bishop forging the midfield partnership and either Dan Lydiate or Sam Warburton packing down at blindside flanker.

Australia are fresh from a memorable 26-24 victory over New Zealand in Hong Kong on Saturday, when wing James O'Connor's last-gasp try and conversion saw the Wallabies home.

"It's fantastic for Australia - I think it was 10 games in a row they hadn't beaten the All Blacks," added Gatland.

"It was a great game of rugby, and they deserved to win. I hope they celebrated long and hard on Saturday night in Hong Kong!

"They are looking really dangerous at the moment. There is a job to do in looking after their back-three - O'Connor's footwork and (Kurtley) Beale's footwork is very impressive, and we know with (Quade) Cooper he runs some fantastic lines.

"But the exciting thing about it, with the interpretation of the rules, it gives us an opportunity to play. It allows both teams to play some expansive rugby and use the threats both teams have."


From Belfast Telegraph