Warren Gatland has won the Six Nations on three occasions with Wales
Paris (AFP) - Wales head coach Warren Gatland said Saturday he is “miles away” from knowing which players will make his squad for this year’s Rugby World Cup.
Gatland’s side open their campaign against Fiji in Bordeaux on September 8 and he will announce a 33-man group a few weeks before the tournament.
They will play England twice and holders South Africa in August in warm-ups for the competition.
“You don’t pigeon-hole yourself into making those decisions now,” Gatland told reporters after the 41-28 defeat to France in the Six Nations.
“You go in with an open mind and not wanting to make those decisions too early. I am miles away from thinking what a 33 is going to be at the moment,” he added.
Gatland will take Wales on a camp to Switzerland as well as the three matches before the World Cup as they eye an improvement on a Six Nations campaign that garnered just one win, against Italy last weekend.
The campaign has been overshadowed by various off-field issues and the Welsh Rugby Union has agreed to change the rule allowing players based with clubs abroad to feature for the national team from 60 caps to 25.
“It is important that everyone gets an opportunity, there are players coming back from injury, we haven’t spoken to anyone else who might be eligible with the change of the eligibility rules,” he said.
“There will be no doubt there will be some bolters who put up their hand with the way they potentially train in the camps,” he added.
For the loss in Paris, Gatland named 11 players aged 30 or older in his matchday squad including captain Ken Owens, 36, and lock Alun Wyn Jones, 37.
Ken Owens made his 91st Test appearances in the loss to France
“If I look at the squad, going through it, there are up to eight players in there who are potentially playing their last Six Nations game,” Gatland said.
“We’ve got to think about building for the World Cup this year, but also thinking about 2027 (World Cup). You need to bring in some younger players and give them that time to develop.
“The ideal scenario is you want to go to a World Cup with a squad of mid to late 20s with 40 or 50 caps.”
Owens, who is set to retire from Test rugby after the World Cup, backed his side to surprise people at the tournament despite this year’s problems.
In January, the chairman of the Welsh Rugby Union (WRU) Steve Phillips resigned after allegations of a “toxic culture” at the governing body with claims of sexism, racism and homophobia made by former employees.
Last month, a player strike over contract problems was cancelled just days before a loss to England.
Earlier on Saturday, there was at least some better news as the WRU announced their professional sides could finally offer new contracts to players after months of discussion.
“I was proud of the players’ efforts all campaign,” Owens said.
“The more time we spend together, the better we get.
“We will raise some eyebrows at the World Cup,” said the hooker, with Wales drawn in a pool that also includes Australia, Fiji, Georgia and Portugal.