Sam Warburton insists future is bright for Wales after Gatland commits

Sam Warburton insists the future is ‘bright’ for Wales after Warren Gatland commits his future until 2027, but calls their shocking World Cup exit to Argentina a ‘missed opportunity’

  • Gatland confirmed on Wedensday he will stay in charge for the next 4 year cycle
  • Fly-half Dan Biggar revealed he has retired from international rugby, however 
  • Former flanker Warburton said he is ‘so much more confident about the future’

Sam Warburton has insisted the young players at Warren Gatland’s disposal mean the future is bright for Wales after their head coach committed to taking the team to the 2027 World Cup.

Wales were knocked out of this year’s tournament at the quarter-final stage, losing to Argentina in what former captain Warburton has described as an ‘opportunity missed.’

On Wednesday, Gatland confirmed he will stay in charge for the next four-year cycle – a move which Warburton believes is great for the Welsh game.

‘Argentina was an opportunity missed for sure,’ said the two-time British & Irish Lions skipper.

‘But then when you look at the bigger picture, a quarter-final is probably reflective of where Wales are right now. A semi-final would have been really good.

Sam Warburton has insisted that the future is ‘bright’ for the Wales national team

Warren Gatland has committed his future to being the Welsh coach until the 2027 World Cup

‘Since Warren came back and weathered Wales through the storm of the Six Nations, the gap between the top four in the world and the rest has definitely closed. It’s still there and it is still significant, but my view is it was enormous last year. Warren deserves a lot of credit.’

‘Wales have brought it back a bit. Arguably they were outside the world’s top 10 last year in terms of their performances and results. Wales are a quarter-final team again.

‘Argentina was a game they should have won and they’ll be gutted about that, but Warren will look at it as a great learning. He’ll be thinking it’s more about 2027 than it is 2023. He’ll be aiming for a semi-final minimum then. Anything less will be a huge disappointment.’

Wales’ World Cup campaign saw young players Jac Morgan, Tommy Reffell and Louis Rees-Zammit excel.

Morgan was superb as co-captain in France alongside Dewi Lake. Morgan was today named as captain of a Wales squad to take on the Barbarians in Cardiff on November 4.

‘Two or three years ago when I was coaching with Wales, I won’t lie I looked at the pool of players and thought it would be a quiet few years,’ Warburton said.

‘But now you’re seeing the next generation come through and after watching the last six months, I’m so much more confident about the future. There is a group of young players who have come through who could potentially be 40 to 60 cap players by the next World Cup.

‘I think Wales will be in a much better position in four years. I’m not expecting them to close the gap on the best in the next two years. Fans will have to understand that.

‘We’ve got to be patient as Wales fans and hopefully we can get back on the ascent to being a semi-final team. I think with the playing group we have, we can get there.’

Welsh No 10 Dan Biggar decided to retire from international rugby following Wales’ exit

Wales’ next encounter is against the Barbarians in an uncapped game designed to say farewell to former lock Alun Wyn Jones – the world’s most capped player – before his retirement.

Jones will play for the Barbarians against the country of his birth at Principality Stadium. Gatland won’t be able to call on his players who play for English, French or Japanese clubs for the game. 

Josh Adams and Gareth Davies miss out due to injury. His squad for the Barbarians is made up of just 23 players – 16 of which went to the World Cup. 

‘For this match we have a good mix of players who were part of the World Cup squad and some other players we have worked with previously,’ Gatland said.

‘We’ve decided to go with a smaller squad than usual to prepare for the game because we wanted to help the regions as much as we can by not taking too many of their players away.

‘Our next World Cup cycle starts now. We can be really excited about what we can achieve over the next four years and I look forward to working with these players and seeing them develop.’

Wales have lost No 10 Dan Biggar who retired from Test rugby after the World Cup exit. Warburton added: ‘When someone asks me what the great thing is about Warren, I say it’s that when he says something, you believe it.

‘The young players would have known how good his past record is but after this World Cup, they will really believe now. I think the Australia win would have been a real watershed moment.

‘I think that belief will snowball now. I’ve heard a lot of the young p layers use the word ‘togetherness’ and you can see it. They look like a team.

Liam Williams is challenged by Argentina’s Mateo Carreras during their quarter final clash

‘The results have changed and so too has the environment which is what Warren is great at. I think momentum and belief will start to snowball now.

‘A year ago, Wales didn’t have an identity. You didn’t know what team they were. Were they expansive or physical? Now when you watch Wales you know it’s a Gatland team and they have an identity back.’

Sam Warburton was speaking on behalf of Sage, Official Supporter of Rugby World Cup 2023 

Wales squad to face Barbarians:

Forwards: Corey Domachowski, Nicky Smith, Elliot Dee, Dewi Lake, Keiron Assiratti, Leon Brown, Adam Beard, Ben Carter, Teddy Williams, Dan Lydiate, Jac Morgan (capt), Taine Plumtree, Aaron Wainwright

Backs: Kieran Hardy, Tomos Williams, Sam Costelow, Cai Evans, Mason Grady, George North, Johnny Williams, Rio Dyer, Leigh Halfpenny, Tom Rogers

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