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Gatland reveals concerns over Welsh regions ahead of Ireland clash

SPOTLIGHT: Wales coach Warren Gatland says he is “not 100 percent convinced” Welsh regional rugby will undergo the proper reset required ahead of a daunting Six Nations clash with Ireland.

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Gatland’s men face the runaway tournament favourites in Dublin on Saturday and there is a stark contrast between the rivals on and off the pitch.

Ireland have lost just two of their past 40 home Tests and victory over Wales would equal England’s record of 11 successive Six Nations wins.

Wales, by contrast, have lost nine of their past 10 fixtures in the tournament.

Ireland are benefiting from a system of centrally contracted players that underpins successful provincial teams.

But the four professional regions in Wales – Cardiff, Scarlets, Ospreys and Dragons – are preparing for significant budget cuts that will take effect from next season.

Asked to assess the key difference between Irish and Welsh rugby, Gatland, who served as Ireland coach from 1998-2001, said: “I think they [Ireland] have just got the right structures in place.

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“Probably, if I look at the previous time I was here [in his first spell as Wales boss between 2008 and 2019], we were kind of papering over the cracks of the things that were happening in Welsh rugby.

“We have got an opportunity for a reset [but] unfortunately I am not 100 percent convinced we will have a proper reset within our regions.

“It has probably felt sometimes like you are in a sinking ship and you are trying to plug the holes a little bit. So there is still lots of work for us to do.”

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Gatland said it had taken Ireland time to get their framework right but now they were reaping the rewards.

The New Zealander believes rugby chiefs in Wales must get the correct systems in place.

“I continue to speak about infrastructure, getting the right infrastructure, the right environment, the right S and C [strength and conditioning] coaches, medical staff, quality coaches, training facilities, grounds and stuff,” he said.

“Forget about the players. Get that [infrastructure] right, and then you start building your squad.”

Gatland added: “If we don’t think about the long-term benefit of the game and the infrastructure we’ve got, we are just going to be behind the eight-ball continuously.

“My advice to all the regions is don’t worry about players. If it means picking young players to your squad, make sure you spend the money on your facilities, make sure you spend the money on the right people within your environment.”

Speaking about this weekend’s match at Lansdowne Road, Gatland said the motivation for his “underdogs” was improving from the first two games of the tournament, which ended in narrow losses to Scotland and England.

“We have spoken all week about having no fear to go there,” he said. “It is going to be a huge challenge for us but you have got to embrace that, you have got to be excited about that.”

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