Warren Gatland reckons Wales are ‘a great bet’ ahead of Six Nations
Wales are currently 15-1 fourth favourites behind England to claim the title.
Warren Gatland has responded to the bookmakers writing off Wales’ NatWest 6 Nations title chances by declaring his team “a great bet” to contest honours.
Wales last won the tournament in 2013, and they are currently 15-1 fourth favourites behind England, Ireland and Scotland for this season’s competition, which begins on February 3.
“It is a great bet,” said Wales head coach Gatland, whose 39-man Six Nations squad includes two uncapped players in Worcester wing Josh Adams and Scarlets flanker James Davies.
“The championship is important, full stop. Competition points are at stake, and it is our bread and butter.
“The autumn is about an opportunity to blood some new players, to try things, to experiment a little bit. It is important for us to start well and do well in this tournament.
“The whole process is about building up to the World Cup and continuing to work towards that. These next two (Six Nations) championships, this year and next year, will be important – it is part of the long-term planning and preparation for Japan.”
Adams, 22, is currently the top try-scorer in this season’s Aviva Premiership with nine touchdowns, and he was recently watched at Sixways by Wales assistant coach Rob Howley.
Davies, meanwhile, is rewarded for consistently impressive form in Scarlets colours. The 27-year-old, brother of Wales and British and Irish Lions centre Jonathan Davies, was part of Great Britain’s rugby sevens medal-winning squad at the 2016 Rio Olympics.
“James has had a couple of good seasons with the Scarlets,” Gatland added. “It is exciting for him.
“For someone like Josh, one of the things he is doing well at the moment is scoring tries for a team that is struggling a little bit. He’s got genuine speed.”
The squad also includes the likes of Northampton wing George North and Bath number eight Taulupe Faletau, who are both currently sidelined through injury.
Gloucester back-row forward Ross Moriarty, who has played just two games this season following a long injury absence, is also selected along with Bath fly-half Rhys Priestland, who currently has a hamstring problem.
There are no places, though, for Harlequins centre Jamie Roberts or Bath lock Luke Charteris, who have 168 caps between them.
“George is hoping to be available for this weekend, so whether he gets any rugby or not, we will wait and see,” Gatland added. “He is up and running.
“He (Faletau) is potentially going to be available towards the back end of the Six Nations, which is a positive.
“(Rhys Priestland) has had a scan today, and we are just waiting to hear back on the results from that. Hopefully, it is not too bad – the prognosis is 50-50 about how serious it is.”
Wales begin the Six Nations tournament against Scotland in Cardiff in 18 days, before facing successive away appointments with England and Ireland.