Gatland looking for tough tests as World Cup countdown begins
23 April 2010 10:51am
Wales head coach Warren Gatland
Wales coach Warren Gatland insists he will pick his strongest squad for their daunting summer fixtures as he looks ahead to the 2011 World Cup in New Zealand.
Gatland's side meet South Africa at the Millennium Stadium on June 5 before heading to New Zealand for two clashes on June 19 and 26.
Wales' schedule does not ease up after either with South Africa, New Zealand and Australia all set to visit Cardiff in the autumn.
But Gatland argues the experience the Welsh players will gain from testing games in Dunedin and Hamilton in particular will be invaluable come the World Cup.
He said: "It's important the players gain from this type of experience and we will certainly be looking to take the strongest squad available, barring any injuries picked up in the last few weeks of the season.
"In that case, it may be better to leave one or two behind to recover and have a good pre-season, but other than that it will be our strongest possible squad.
"While we prepare short-term for each match, we are always looking towards the World Cup and we need to play the best teams as often and as regularly as we can to pit ourselves against them.
"We don't want to be playing teams who we can beat comfortably. We want to test ourselves against the best in the world and that often means the three southern hemisphere sides. It's one of the things that I said when I came into the job.
"With the intensity those teams bring to rugby, they provide the toughest opposition and every time we play those sides the players and coaches learn so much and improve with the challenge of it.
"It's great for us to be able to play South Africa at home. If we can win that game, it'll give us great confidence as we head to New Zealand."
After missing out on England's 2015 RBS 6 Nations campaign through injury, centre Brad Barritt admits he is determined to make up for that disappointment in style with club side Saracens during the season run-in.