Warren Gatland says Wales in good place for Six Nations
By Richard Cooke
Last Updated: 16/01/18 10:45pm
Wales boss Warren Gatland says he is "pretty happy" with a Six Nations schedule that includes an early clash against title holders England at Twickenham.
Gatland's men launch the tournament by hosting in-form Scotland on February 3, then it is England seven days later, followed by another fiercely difficult game against Ireland in Dublin.
"I am pretty happy with the draw," said Gatland, whose team are fourth favourites for the title with most bookmakers.
"Scotland first up is a good challenge for us. If you can win those first two games, you have a chance of winning the championship.
"It is always a good position for us to be in where people tend to write you off.
"Our players have always thrived on being underdogs. People put the boot into them and they respond. It is a good position for us to be in."
Wales' prospects, meanwhile, look set to be boosted by Northampton wing George North being available for the Scotland opener in Cardiff.
North has been recently sidelined by a knee injury, but Gatland delivered an upbeat assessment on his recovery after naming him in a 39-man Six Nations squad that includes uncapped Worcester wing Josh Adams and Scarlets flanker James Davies.
"There is potential for him to maybe start for Northampton this week, or he might be on the bench," Gatland added.
"He is a player that needs to play some rugby to get confidence, especially with his knee. Hopefully, we can get some rugby into him.
"The debate is whether rugby is the more important thing, or is it being with us for two weeks of preparation. I think the following week is an Anglo-Welsh game, and is that beneficial?
"Does he need a week with Northampton training and playing, or should he come in with us and get ready for that first match?"
Scrum-half Rhys Webb is another squad inclusion, but it could be his final Wales campaign for some time.
Webb joins French giants Toulon next term and will, therefore, be ineligible for Wales as he will be playing outside the country and has not reached that specific qualifying criteria of 60 caps.
"You don't know the circumstances and how things work out for him out there [Toulon], how he settles, injuries and things," Gatland said.