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Wales ready to 'learn from the best'

REACTION: Wales coach Warren Gatland readily accepted the ‘underdog’ tag for his team’s mid-year Test against South Africa at Twickenham on Saturday.

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However, it is also an opportunity to learn and grow the team.

Flank Jac Morgan has been ruled out of Saturday’s Test and the team’s tour to Australia with a hamstring injury.

Morgan, who was World Cup co-captain with Dewi Lake last year, missed this year’s Six Nations because of a knee injury.

But he now has a hamstring problem that he suffered during Ospreys’ United Rugby Championship quarterfinal defeat against Munster earlier this month.

Cardiff scrumhalf Ellis Bevan will make his senior international debut while Eddie James, James Ratti and Jacob Beetham could win their first caps from the replacements’ bench.

Cardiff flanker James Botham, the grandson of England cricket great Ian Botham, starts in the back row alongside Taine Plumtree and Aaron Wainwright even though he was only called up on Monday.

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Wales are without their England-based players including Nick Tompkins, Dafydd Jenkins and Tommy Reffell, because the game falls outside World Rugby’s Test window.

South Africa are the ‘home’ team on Saturday, with Twickenham their choice of venue, and Wales go into the game following six successive Test defeats.

“We have our backs to the wall a little bit this week, but we are excited about the challenge,” Gatland said.

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“I see it as a great opportunity for other players to step up and put their hands up.

“I don’t see it any different to when I arrived in 2008 and was asked by Roger Lewis [then WRU Chief Executive]: ‘Who do you want to play’?

“I said any time we can play a Southern Hemisphere team we need to jump at that chance.

“That is the way you improve.

“Not just in rugby, but any sport, by playing against the best.

“That is the biggest part of the development.

Warren Gatland with quote ahead of Boks

“I look back at my own experience as a young player coming through and playing against Auckland, who were one of the best teams in the world and full of All Blacks.

“As a young Waikato player, they put 40 points on us, and the amount I learnt as a player was part of my growth and development.

“Test match games are tough and physical.

“You have got to be able to handle adversity. You have to go through that pain sometimes and be able to come out the other side.

“There is nothing wrong with that.

“You have to be brave and overcome your fear factor.

“You are going out there and playing against big men, and it is going to hurt and you have to go through some pain.

“There are lots of things about playing at the top level.

“It’s tough and there are going to be lots of different emotions and things to challenge yourself on.”

On Morgan’s absence, Gatland added: “He is pretty gutted. He felt it [hamstring] being a bit tight, so we have just been looking after him.

“Unfortunately, yesterday [Monday] he felt it being really tight, so we just got him scanned and he has been ruled out.

“He is very disappointed but it gives him an opportunity to get a good pre-season in, have a rest and start thinking about later on in the year.”

Source: AFP & PA

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