Wales wait on Warren Gatland’s return following death of his father

Wales hope Warren Gatland will return from New Zealand in time for their autumn series opener against Scotland on November 3.

Gatland flew back to New Zealand earlier this week following the death of his father.

The Wales squad are currently continuing their preparations with Gatland’s assistants Rob Howley, Robin McBryde and Shaun Edwards at the helm.

“We are still not sure when Warren will return,” said forwards coach McBryde.

Warren always stresses the importance of family and that comes first. That is the case in this instance.

Robin McBryde

“Hopefully, it will be ahead of the Scotland game. We will just see how that pans out.

“Warren always stresses the importance of family and that comes first. That is the case in this instance.

“Our thoughts are with him and the family at this moment. It makes it that much harder being that far away from your family at times like this.

“We are just keen to crack on with the job. Warren has always been happy to discuss plans and make sure we are on the same page and happy for us [coaches] to take a lead on different occasions.

“Rob has stepped up and been in this position before, so it has not affected us too much.

“The plans have been in place for a while about when we train, and it is about implementing that now and reacting in a positive way to what raises its head during training sessions.

“We have always had the flexibility to change things on the hoof.”

Wales are set to field a powerful line-up against Scotland, with that game being followed by a clash with Australia seven days later, then Tonga on November 17 and South Africa on November 24.

The likes of Leigh Halfpenny, George North, Gareth Davies, Ken Owens, Alun Wyn Jones and Ross Moriarty all seem set to feature in the Scotland clash as Wales look to protect an unbeaten 16-year home record against their Six Nations rivals.

Their run of results against Australia, though, is a totally different scenario, having suffered 13 successive defeats in the fixture, with eight of those losses being in Cardiff.

And with the 2019 World Cup countdown firmly under way, McBryde has revealed that Wales could look at lock Cory Hill as a back row option.

Hill has played 17 of his 18 Tests in the second row – he made one brief substitute appearance as a flanker against England last year – and was co-captain with Ellis Jenkins on this summer’s successful Argentina tour.

While back row is one of Wales’ strongest areas they are currently without Taulupe Faletau, Josh Navidi, James Davies and Aaron Shingler through injuries.

“We have mentioned the ability of Cory moving into the back-row, and there are options out there,” said McBryde.

“Cory has good skills, a great engine and it’s just a case of seeing how he would go in that position.

“I have spoken to him, and he will be happy to give it a go. It’s a conversation that he has had with [head coach] Bernard Jackman at the Dragons as well.

“It’s one of those things that we are not going to rule out at this stage. It’s early days in terms of training, and we haven’t had the opportunity to do it at this stage.”

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