Wales v Scotland Six Nations preview: We’ve got to trust these kids says Warren Gatland as rookie team is announced

Warren Gatland

By Iestyn Thomas at the Vale Resort

It’s the start of a new era in Welsh rugby and Warren Gatland’s 23-man squad to face Scotland in the opening round of the Guinness Six Nations certainly underlines that fact.

Gatland has made eight changes from last year’s Rugby World Cup quarter-final defeat to Argentina, with seven out of the chosen 23 having six caps or fewer.

Cam Winnett has recovered from a jaw injury to make his Wales debut at full-back in just his 16th professional game.

Winnett’s inclusion was very much the main talking point as the media gathered at Wales’ Vale Resort HQ to hear Gatland justify his picks.

The New Zealander said: “The initial outlook we had (on Winnett) was he was a couple of weeks away, but the surgeon has come back and said everything has healed perfectly and he’s fit and ready to go.

“I spoke to him at the end of last week to see if he was comfortable and how he was feeling. He was more than happy to be considered for selection.

“He’s trained really well, we’ve been really impressed with him, he’s a tough kid and it’s a great opportunity.

“There’s no pressure on him from our point of view.

“It is his first cap so he should go out there and enjoy the occasion, go and do what he’s been doing for Cardiff.

“He runs some good lines, he’s got lovely hands and he’s a young player with a great future.”

Gatland dismissed claims he has gone too far with youth and inexperience in his selection – not that he has too much option.

He also insisted this tournament has to be viewed through the prism of longer term development, even though the Welsh public will always demand results.

“You can’t coach experience,” he stressed.

“Those young players have to get out there and learn what it’s like to be playing in front of 75,000 people, where things are happening a little bit quicker than you’re used to.

“For us I’d like to think people see us preparing for the Six Nations but also preparing for the next few years in terms of a squad that we want to keep together and a group of youngsters we want to develop.

“I think they are going to be outstanding players in the next few seasons.

“I think we’re at the beginning of an exciting cycle and I couldn’t be happier with how they’ve trained and prepared over the last two weeks.

Warren Gatland and Dafydd Jenkins at the press conference

“The attitudes have been outstanding, everyone has been vocal and pushing each other and incredibly positives in terms of the support for each other.”

Meanwhile Exeter lock Dafydd Jenkins is set to become the second youngest captain of the national side and is excited to get going.

Jenkins said: “We’re focusing on getting the detail right.

“This is our last proper training session and it’s now just coming to terms with the fact we’re all going to be running out at the Principality in front of a full crowd.

“Similar to what I’ve experienced at Exeter, youth isn’t always a bad thing.

“It’s also that desire to do well for each other.

“I’ve grown up with a lot of these boys in the U-18s and U-20s, so it’s a real feeling of everyone wanting to do well for each other.”

There’s a potential debut for Cardiff flanker Alex Mann, with Ospreys duo Gareth Thomas and George North ruled out through injury as Corey Domachoswki and Owen Watkin start.

Gatland gave his reasons on not selecting Thomas and North: “Both of them haven’t trained enough, they didn’t take part in training last week and missed the start of this week so we haven’t considered them.

“Basically we have had other players here for training and we felt they’re a little bit under done at this stage.

“George is ready to go now but we wanted to select the team early.

“We named the team to the players on Monday to give everyone the best opportunity of preparing for Saturday.”

* Meanwhile Elliot Millar Mills is in line to make his international debut this weekend, with the Northampton Saints prop named on Scotland’s bench.

The 31-year-old tighthead qualifies for Scotland through his mother and will follow in his sister Bridget’s footsteps, who has represented the Scotland women’s national team.

Millar Mills has caught the eye in Black, Green and Gold since arriving at cinch Stadium at Franklin’s Gardens last summer, and will now aim to make his Test bow for Gregor Townsend’s side in Cardiff on Saturday.

Wales: 15. Cameron Winnett, 14. Josh Adams, 13. Owen Watkin, 12. Nick Tompkins 11. Rio Dyer, 10. Sam Costelow 9. Gareth Davies; 1. Corey Domachowski, 2. Ryan Elias, 3. Leon Brown, 4. Adam Beard, 5. Dafydd Jenkins (c), 6. James Botham, 7. Tommy Reffell, 8. Aaron Wainwright

Replacements: 16. Elliot Dee, 17. Kemsley Mathias, 18. Keiron Assiratti, 19. Teddy Williams, 20. Alex Mann, 21. Tomos Williams, 22. Ioan Lloyd 23. Mason Grady

Scotland: 15. Kyle Rowe, 14. Kyle Steyn, 13. Huw Jones, 12. Sione Tuipulotu, 11. Duhan van der Merwe, 10. Finn Russell (c), 9. Ben White, 1. Pierre Schoeman, 2. George Turner, 3. Zander Fagerson, 4. Richie Gray, 5. Scott Cummings, 6. Luke Crosbie, 7. Jamie Ritchie, 8. Matt Fagerson.

Replacements: 16. Ewan Ashman, 17. Alec Hepburn, 18. Elliot Millar-Mills, 19. Sam Skinner, 20. Jack Dempsey, 21. George Horne, 22. Ben Healy, 23. Cameron Redpath.