Gatland ready to try out some youngsters
WALES head coach Warren Gatland has revealed he is ready to inject fresh blood into his Six Nations-winning side for the forthcoming autumn series.
After masterminding the British and Irish Lions' series triumph in Australia this summer, Gatland is now focusing on claiming an elusive southern hemisphere scalp with Wales.
Three Six Nations titles have been won since the Gatland regime took charge in 2008, but only Australia (2008) of the Sanzar nations have been beaten in that time.
It is a major stain on the Gatland era, but the New Zealander insists he won't be afraid to give some new faces their opportunity when the likes of South Africa and Australia arrive in Cardiff this November.
"I'm conscious of giving our youngsters an opportunity to perform," he said.
"Keeping in mind the World Cup is just two years away we need to make sure we keep working with the younger guys and developing them as we look to increase our squad depth."
Wales kick off their autumn campaign against a Springboks side who handed Argentina a 73-13 whipping in the opening round of the Rugby Championship last Saturday. They then host the Pumas and Tonga, before completing their schedule against Australia.
"It's going to be a tough autumn," added Gatland.
"We start with South Africa first up, obviously they had a huge win over Argentina at the weekend and then we face Argentina — who we know will get better as the Rugby Championship goes on — Tonga on a Friday night and finish up with Australia again.
"We have always thrived on testing ourselves against the best. We will be doing that again."
Reflecting on the Lions success, Gatland said: "We should be really proud of what our Welsh players have achieved and we need to make sure that those players who have done well with Wales and the Lions kick on from that.
"I think those players involved would have gained a huge amount of confidence from the tour.
"They all came away with a lot of credit. They were in great shape physically and a lot of those players were key components in the Test side.
"It's always a challenge post-Lions, the players will be excited and motivated but we must make sure we keep them fresh.
"I'm really excited about the next couple of years.
"We left New Zealand (after the World Cup in 2011) feeling unfulfilled even after what we achieved and with this Welsh squad we could do really well at the next World Cup.
"There are two or three players in their early thirties, but everyone else is early and mid-twenties and they have not one but a couple of World Cups ahead of them."