Warren Gatland: Wales boss favours home fly-halves over Gloucester's Owen Williams

Owen Williams played at inside centre for Wales in the autumn rather than in his Gloucester fly-half role
Owen Williams played at inside centre for Wales in the autumn rather than in his Gloucester fly-half role

Wales coach Warren Gatland has hinted Rhys Patchell and Gareth Anscombe are vying for the fly-half spot in the Six Nations opener against Scotland.

Dan Biggar and Rhys Priestland are both injured, and Gatland says English-based Owen Williams is at a "disadvantage".

Williams has to return to Gloucester periodically during the tournament.

"It's a pretty important position and we need someone to be around a long time in training and be available," said Gatland.

Asked if that gave Cardiff Blues' Anscombe and Scarlets' Patchell an edge over Williams - who played 12 for Wales in November - Gatland replied: "Possibly at the moment.

"It's a bit of a disadvantage for Owen because he's not going to be available later this week and the first two weeks. If he's not in the match-day 23 he has to go back to Gloucester and in the fallow week he has to go back.

"To be honest it's a disadvantage to be playing your rugby in England."

A decade in charge

Wales start their Six Nations campaign at home to Scotland on 3 February, almost 10 years to the day since Gatland first took charge of Wales.

They won the Grand Slam in his first season, though Gatland said he did not expect to still be in charge after a decade.

"I didn't, no," he said at the launch of the 2018 tournament in London.

"The longevity of a Wales coach wasn't something to look at, but it's been great, a fantastic tenure in terms of the experience I've had.

Wales won the 2008 Grand Slam in Warren Gatland's first season in charge
Wales won the 2008 Grand Slam in Warren Gatland's first season in charge

"I look back and in that time the Six Nations has been very successful [for us], we've got something like a 75% success rate.

"We're not as successful against southern hemisphere teams as I'd have liked but the Six Nations has gone really well. We're excited about 2018 and the first game at home against Scotland.

"It's a great game to have first up and hopefully get a winning start and go on to a successful tournament."

Gatland led Wales to a second Grand Slam in 2012, but the 2013 championship win - Wales' last title - came during one of his two spells in charge of the British and Irish Lions.

Scots confidence good for Wales

He is confident going into the match against the Scots, who have not won in Cardiff since 2002 but beat Wales at Murrayfield last season when they ended a run of nine consecutive defeats against Gatland's side.

"We've seen the rise of Scotland in recent seasons and the nice thing from my point of view is they have their tails up and they're confident," he said.

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"That's great for us because we can rise to the challenge.

"I look back 10 years ago, it's the same draw in terms of the three home games and two away and we won the Grand Slam.

"The Scotland game is a great game to get confidence and momentum going into the tournament."

Scarlets boost national team

Gatland hopes Scarlets' achievement of becoming the first Welsh side to reach the knock-out stages of the European Champions Cup for six years can boost his squad.

"What's nice is we haven't had this for a number of years, we haven't had teams in the quarter-finals," Gatland added.

"We've had players coming in in the past who haven't been successful in Europe, so they come in to you lacking...a little bit of confidence.

"From that perspective having the Scarlets boys in camp... they've come in with self-belief and that obviously has an impact on the squad and hopefully that will carry us into that first game against Scotland."

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