Warren Gatland considers 50 players for Wales squad
Gatland plans June Tests strategy
Warren Gatland says he has identified 50 players from which to begin his countdown to the 2011 World Cup.
But the Wales coach has yet to hold any talks on extending his own contract beyond next year's tournament.
Gatland is due to announce his squad for the June Tests against South Africa and New Zealand in the middle of May.
"We've drawn up quite a large list of 50 players that we've been keeping an eye on and trying to narrow down for the tour," Gatland told Sport Wales.
"That's why games in this part of the season are pretty important for certain individuals.
"It's great to see players coming back into form and there's some big games over the next couple of weeks before we do name the squad."
The squad is likely to include a number of youngsters who have caught Gatland's eye during recent weeks as the Magners League has come to the boil.
I've thoroughly enjoyed my two-and-a-half years so far here in Wales
Wales coach Warren Gatland
Their opportunities will be improved if one or more of the Welsh regions reach the Magners League play-off final on 29 May, as the home Test against the Springboks in Cardiff is only seven days later on 5 June.
Gatland admitted there is the possibility of being without several players for the South Africa game at the Millennium Stadium because of that end-of-season domestic schedule.
"We may need to look at naming a squad for South Africa and renaming a squad for New Zealand, depending on what happens with the Magners League," Gatland said.
"We're hoping to take the strongest possible squad that we can do because it's important to familiarise ourselves and the players with New Zealand and the environment and some of the venues that we'll be at in the World Cup, and to perform well also.
A number of young players at both the Dragons and the Scarlets have impressed Gatland - regions that will not be involved in the play-offs.
"The Dragons have had some great results and performances at home, beating the Ospreys, they beat Munster at home," Gatland said.
"But you've got to back that up with away games, they had a great win against the Ospreys and then lost away to Connacht.
"The thing for them is to build on the positives of this year and hopefully carry that into next year with a little more consistency.
"They've definitely had players who have performed well at times.
"I think Jason Tovey has been good for them at 10, Will Harries on the wing, Aled Brew, before he got injured Martyn Thomas at full-back... Gavin Thomas... at seven, Luke Charteris has been a real consistent performer, the young loose-head [Hugh] Gustafson has been good also.
"There's a number of players in the regions that have done pretty well - a couple of second rows in the Scarlets, young [Josh] Turnbull and [Rob] McCusker; there's a couple of young scrum-halves, Tavis Knoyle and Martin Roberts who did well for the Scarlets over the weekend.
"There are players outside of Wales that have been involved in the squad that we are keeping an eye on, in terms of Rhys Gill and Eifion Roberts, and obviously Dwayne Peel who's had a few injury problems as well."
Gatland views the three June Tests as the starting point for a 15-month run-in towards the World Cup, where the Springboks lay in wait for Wales in Pool D.
The tournament will also be an end point for Gatland's own four-year contract, but as yet the New Zealander says he has not started any negotiations on a new deal.
"It's something I haven't really thought about at the moment... there's 18 months to go until the end of the World Cup.
"I've thoroughly enjoyed my two-and-a-half years so far here in Wales.
"I've always been a great believer in what will be, will be and something will be around the corner, or something will come along, or some opportunities will come my way.
"And if it doesn't I might have to go back to New Zealand and put my feet up and go to the beach and retire!
"At this stage not thinking too far past the next few months and really making sure that my focus is on each tournament and building towards the World Cup and giving us the best possible chance of performing in New Zealand."
*Watch Sport Wales on Friday, 30 April on BBC TWO Wales; 2100-2130 BST.
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