Rugby-Wales coach Gatland backs Costelow to regain form against Ireland

  • Rugby
  • Thursday, 22 Feb 2024

Rugby Union - Six Nations Championship - Wales v Scotland - Principality Stadium, Cardiff, Wales, Britain - February 3, 2024 Wales head coach Warren Gatland before the match REUTERS/Carl Recine/ File photo

(Reuters) - Warren Gatland has urged Wales flyhalf Sam Costelow to bottle his nerves and grab the opportunity in Saturday’s Six Nations fixture in Ireland, adding that his side head to Dublin without fear after successive losses in the championship.

Costelow was selected for the opening 27-26 home loss to Scotland but had a poor game as Wales went 27-0 down before rallying in the second half once Costelow had left the pitch with a neck injury.

He subsequently missed the 16-14 defeat by England at Twickenham in their second game when 22-year-old Ioan Lloyd showed composure in the number 10 jersey.

Despite this, Gatland has turned back to Costelow, 23, for the daunting trip to Ireland.

"It was a tough call," he told reporters on Thursday. "We were pretty happy with Ioan’s development at 10. Things didn’t go as well for Sam in the first half against Scotland. He’s someone we’ve been working closely with.

"At the World Cup (in France), it was easy for him (Costelow), having some experienced 10s in front of him. I think it dawned on him before Scotland that he’s Wales’ number 10. He was pretty nervous for that one."

Gatland said there was no panic in the team after two defeats and that he would continue to put his faith in young players with the 2027 World Cup in mind.

"It’s how you look at it. We’ve had two defeats but we could have had two close wins as well. That’s where we are as a team. We’re aware we’ve got a huge amount of growth in us.

"We’ve made that decision (to stick with young players) because we feel there’s a chance to develop this team over the next few years.

"I’ve had this chat with (England coach) Steve Borthwick and he’s in the same position. Hopefully people can see what we’re trying to do."

Gatland admits Ireland present a huge challenge but an exciting one for his players.

"They are a settled team, they are world class and it’s a big challenge for us. We're excited for it," he said. "They are comfortable when they have got the ball and they have got the ability to keep it for multiple phases.

"That really stresses you. That is when they are incredibly dangerous. They have got some key individuals and we have got to unsettle them."

(Reporting by Nick Said; Editing by Ken Ferris)

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