Gatland back for Wales

Warren Gatland returns to the Wales camp tomorrow with his native New Zealand looming on the horizon. [more]

Gatland back for Wales

Warren Gatland returns to the Wales camp tomorrow with his native New Zealand looming on the horizon.

Gatland relinquished the Welsh coaching reins for the summer tour of Australia after suffering injuries in an accident last spring.

Rob Howley became interim head coach and continued to lead Wales in their opening autumn Tests as Gatland began preparations for next year’s Lions tour.

Wales have crashed to five consecutive defeats under Howley, the latest their 26-19 loss to Samoa, and are perilously close to falling out of the world’s top eight.

But Gatland will temporarily return to head up the Welsh management team for the clashes with New Zealand and Australia before returning to Lions duty.

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“Over the last 12 months or so we have been to the World Cup semi-finals and won a Grand Slam. We have had the highs, and now we are going through a low,” said former Wales captain Howley.

“We have to bounce back, and rugby gives you an opportunity.

“This group of players have been outstanding in training, but when we cross that white line our skills are not up to scratch of international rugby at this moment in time.

“But we will keep working hard and keep working smart, and we will stick together.

“We have two good games against New Zealand and Australia to come, and it is something to look forward to.

“International rugby is about discipline, and when we created opportunities in the game, although we did not have many, we were disappointed in terms of our top-three inches at times.

“We were out-performed by a Samoa side whose ability to keep the ball better than us was the most disappointing aspect of the performance. We did not have control of possession or in terms of the contact area, and that performance was obviously not international standard.”

Wales, who are already without a host of front line players, including 2009 Lions duo Adam Jones and Alun Wyn Jones, face further injury woes ahead of the New Zealand clash.

Ospreys trio Dan Biggar, Richard Hibbard and Ian Evans all suffered injuries in the bruising defeat and are doubts for next week’s encounter.

"Obviously we'll take guidance from the medical team," said Wales interim coach Rob Howley.

"We've had injuries over the last three, four weeks and when injuries occur it gives you an opportunity to bring players in and test our strength in depth in the team.

"We'll continue to give that opportunity to players through injuries. It's not easy but that's a part of international rugby."

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