Gatland snubs Henson as Wales go with old guard against England
Experiments will be few and far between for Warren Gatland on Saturday as the Wales coach looks to cement his best side ahead of September’s Rugby World Cup.
In the first of two games against England – one at Twickenham and one at the Millennium Stadium – Wales are set to go with their strongest team possible.
Captain Matthew Rees is a doubt for all three of Wales’ warm-up games and so Sam Warburton will stand in as skipper with the Osprey’s Huw Bennett replacing Rees at hooker.
Gavin Henson will be kept waiting on a comeback but he’s sure to feature at some point during the three games as Gatland asseses whether or not to take the gifted yet erratic midfielder to New Zealand.
Jamie Roberts and Jonathan Davies will start at centre as Gatland sticks with the tried and tested formula, but while the two clearly have bags of talent, we’re yet to see them really click as a partnership and Gatland will be hoping they can do so over the next three matches.
Four years ago Wales travelled to Twickenham with an experimental side and were duly humiliated 62-5, a defeat which knocked the confidence of the Welsh squad tremendously.
Wales went on to suffer a shock exit at the group stage of the World Cup in a group that included Fiji, Canada and Japan, and Gatland does not want a repeat of that campaign this time around.
“I think we all realise that the side we picked four years ago wasn’t good enough,” said assistant coach Neil Jenkins.
“We need to make sure we’re right on Saturday. We know it’s a big challenge for us, England at Twickenham.
“But we’re looking forward. The boys have trained really hard and it will be a very good challenge for us.”
Wales are outsiders in the Rugby World Cup betting and start their campaign against South Africa on September 11.