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Wales holding fire on young guns

By Sean Davies

Warren Gatland
Gatland pulled no punches after the win over Samoa on Friday

Coach Warren Gatland has suggested that Wales' experienced stars are back in pole position for the rest of the autumn Tests after the tight Samoa win.

The likes of Dan Biggar, Sam Warburton and Tom James were given their chances on Friday, with Stephen Jones, Martyn Williams and Shane Williams rested.

The pre-game talk was how they would step up as the 2011 World Cup looms.

When asked post-match if he had been given any selection dilemmas, Gatland gave a stark "no" then a long pause.

Confident fly-half Biggar had been most vocal in the pre-game talk, speaking of his long-term desire to displace Lions Test star Jones.

The 20-year-old Osprey started superbly, his kick setting up Leigh Halfpenny's try.

But he was criticised by Gatland for his tactical approach, Wales proceeding to kick away too much possession and Biggar floating the pass that led to Seilala Mapusua's interception try.

"We brought them back into it and made it difficult for ourselves - after that interception, Dan's next kick, the kick-off, was poor," said Gatland.

"We talked in the box about the possibility of taking Dan off, moving James Hook to 10 and bringing Morgan Stoddart on.

"But we decided the important thing was to keep Dan on. In terms of development, taking him off could have done more harm than good.

606: DEBATE
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"Dan will learn from that moment and the experience he had."

Biggar himself was somewhat humbler after the experience, although still brash enough to suggest that no long-term damage has been done.

"I had a couple of minutes when I was a bit down, perhaps with a bit more experience I'd get over it straight away," said Biggar.

"I'm generally a quite positive person, I'll pick myself up - it's no good moping round the pitch, that's not helping the boys.

"Stephen's obviously in pole position, I need to get a bit more experience and a few more caps.

"My long-term aim is to replace Stephen, but I'm still learning."

Warburton was the other man to raise the pre-match interest, the 21-year-old stepping into the open-side flanker boots of 34-year-old, 89-cap, three-time Lions tourist Martyn Williams.

Interview: James Hook & Leigh Halfpenny

The impressive youngster sliced through the Samoa defence on a number of occasions and was prominent in support.

But Warburton crumbled in a few key decision-making areas, knocking on when the ball was dropped into his bread basket.

"It was really tough, I enjoyed it and learnt that you can never be too fit at this level," said Warburton.

"I made errors, I want to analyse those and get them sorted.

"It's a key position with a lot of expectation on it. Another cap this autumn would be brilliant.

"I know that, realistically, Martyn is number one, if I can cement my number-two place I would be thrilled."

Ironically, two other youngsters who failed to catch the pre-game headlines were the ones to make more of an impression on Gatland.

The Wales coach praised centre Jonathan Davies, who came on for the last half hour to impress in place of injured veteran Tom Shanklin.

Wing Tom James was also mentioned as having impressed, the Cardiff Blues youngster having targeted Wales' record try-scorer Shane Williams' number 11 jersey.

Of more immediate concerns to Gatland will be the front row, though.

Makeshift tight-head prop Paul James creaked and replacement Craig Mitchell crumbled against Samoa, who are not renowned for their tight play.

The chink in the armour could be exposed as a gaping chasm when hard-scrummaging Argentina hit the Millennium Stadium on Saturday.

Wales v Samoa

Highlights - Wales 17-13 Samoa (UK only)



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see also
Biggar disappointed by gifted try
14 Nov 09 |  Welsh
Samoa's gentlemen brutalise Wales
14 Nov 09 |  Welsh
The bone-rattlers: Samoan rugby
04 Aug 09 |  Rugby Union
Wales 17-13 Samoa
13 Nov 09 |  Welsh
Wales v Samoa as it happened
13 Nov 09 |  Rugby Union
Biggar sends 10 warning to Jones
11 Nov 09 |  Welsh
Warburton told to forget Williams
12 Nov 09 |  Welsh
Samoan rugby songs & war dance
13 Aug 07 |  Welsh
Wales v Samoa: Full record
31 Jul 09 |  Rugby Union
Wales' rugby fixtures
26 Jun 07 |  Welsh
Wales rugby results archive
15 Oct 03 |  Welsh
BBC Sport Wales coverage
03 Oct 11 |  Wales
Country profile: Samoa
19 Oct 11 |  Country profiles


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FROM OTHER SPORT SITES
Sporting Life CHARTERIS CALLS FOR IMPROVEMENT - 11 hrs ago
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