Rugby: Warren Gatland - Not many positives from loss

By Kris Shannon

Wales coach Warren Gatland asked some serious questions of his fringe players before last night's tour match against the Chiefs.

And, aided by a rampant home side in Hamilton, those questions received a resounding answer.

Gatland discovered over the course of 80 painful minutes that Wales' squad depth was seriously lacking, meaning the first-choice team were unlikely to receive much of selection challenge ahead of Saturday night's second test against the All Blacks in Wellington.

Wales were taught a lesson on Gatland's homecoming to the Waikato, proven to lack a clinical edge and found physically wanting in the collision.

The six tries they shipped brought to 16 the total Wales have conceded in their last three games, leaving the defence in need of a serious fix before their trip to the Cake Tin.

In fairness, though, many of the men who suffered against the Chiefs will be watching from the stands as the tour progresses, with Gatland admitting as much after the game.

"We asked a few questions in terms of players getting an opportunity and, unfortunately, some of them didn't take that," he said. "A number of players there were given a chance to go out there and make a statement, perform and put their hands up for selection for Saturday.

"And probably a few questions were answered for us in terms of fringe players and where they're at."

In searching for positives to emerge from the match - "there's not many, if I'm perfectly honest" - Gatland highlighted the harsh lessons those players would take from their encounter with a top Super Rugby side.

Mid-week matches are always demanding and some of the squad will need to remember that reality if they are to earn selection for next year's Lions tour, when Gatland is likely to be among the men in charge of a side who will face all five Super Rugby franchises.

"We have to have an opportunity to experience what's going to happen on tours," the coach said. "Part of the experience of coming to New Zealand for a lot of the squad was learning from that experience and playing against a quality side.

"I think the players would have learnt a lot from tonight and we need to apply that and some of the lessons from last Saturday into next week."

Gatland was hopeful the setback would not have any larger ramifications for their two remaining clashes with the All Blacks, despite a few of the first-choice team playing a part in a humbling night. Test captain Sam Warburton was among those who received a late call-up in a squad beset by injuries, with both Jamie Roberts and Taulupe Faletau also coming into the matchday squad.

"We had to front up," Gatland said. "Unfortunately some guys on Saturday picked up some knocks -we tried to manage them, in terms of limiting them as much as possible.

"We've got a recovery day tomorrow and then we have to prepare on Thursday. There's no doubt the players in that changing room are hurting - not just the players who took the pitch but they players who were watching as well.

"The challenge is how we respond to that, and that's what we need to do for Saturday."

- NZ Herald

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