Gatland: ‘Ireland ideal opponents’

Date published: May 7 2015

Wales head coach Warren Gatland has turned his attention to his side's Rugby World Cup warm-up matches as the end of the season approaches.

Six Nations champions Ireland and Italy will be Wales' opponents in the countdown before the tournament kicks off in September.

“Both matches against Ireland will be physical encounters, both at home and away and it should be ideal preparation ahead of the World Cup,” said Gatland.

“To be facing the Six Nations champions, which is something we didn’t know at the time the fixtures were arranged, has worked out really well for us.

“Then Italy will be a different prospect altogether, by then we will have selected our Rugby World Cup squad.

“We are in an incredibly tough group and that’s not just because of the teams that we are facing.

“We have a five-day turnaround before we play Fiji in particular and we are going to need to make sure the whole squad is in shape.”

Gatland will name his extended training squad in early June and the first opportunity to find out if the squad’s meticulous RWC preparations – which include training camps in Qatar and Fiesch in July – have paid off in a match environment will be on home turf against the Irish.

Then his squad travels to North Wales for another training camp at Parc Eirias before returning to the familiar surroundings of Spala, Poland, the scene of the bulk of their 2011 RWC preparation, for eight days.

Wales name their final 31-man RWC squad for the 2015 tournament in England on Monday, August 31, just days before his side faces Italy in the second of the Tests.

The Azzurri will provide the final test for Wales before rugby’s showpiece tournament kicks-off for them with a home clash against Uruguay at the Millennium Stadium a fortnight later and is a genuine opportunity for those who can’t lay their hands on RWC tickets to watch their heroes in action.

“These matches are a great opportunity for the fans to get one last look at the team before the World Cup starts and to let the players know that they are behind them,” said Gatland.

“We have already discussed our extended squad and there are one or two players who have the potential to impress the coaches starting with the Ospreys this Friday night.

“I’ve spoken to the coaches at the regions and let them know who we are looking at and left it up to them if they want to tell the players or not.

“There are a couple of youngsters in the frame but if you look at our squad as a whole it has been quite settled since 2011 and we are lucky in that we have senior players who could still be around until 2019.”