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First cut could be the deepest, admits Gatland; Youngsters will get their chance against Ireland to avoid the axe.

Byline: Simon Thomas Rugby correspondent

WARREN Gatland has con-firmed he will cut his squad by around 10 players after next week's opening warm-up match against Ireland when a number of youngsters will be given a chance to stake a claim for World Cup spots.

The Wales coach intends to trim his 47-man preliminary party down to between 36 and 38 following the Millennium Stadium meeting with the Irish on August 8, so he can focus on rugby training with a smaller group ahead of reducing it further when he names his final 31-strong squad.

He admits making such decisions are the hardest part of his job and an emotional experience which he finds "very, very hard".

Outlining his plans for his squad, Gatland said: "We will probably cut it to 36, maybe 37 or 38 initially after the first warm-up game because from then it's a real focus on the rugby.

"When you have got a squad of 47, it's quite hard as coaches to work with that many players. Reducing the squad to around 36 or 37 is a little bit more manageable when you are really focusing on the rugby element of the game.

"A number of younger players in the squad will have an opportunity next week against Ireland to show what they have done in the last few weeks and really push their claims for selection in the squad."

Speaking on Sky Sports News HQ, Gatland admitted he doesn't relish the process of cutting players from his plans.

"It's the hardest part about coaching," he said. "I find that incredibly tough when you tell players they are going to miss out on a squad.

"Initially it's going to be reduction down from 47 to 30-odd and then we'll reduce that down to 31 for the World Cup squad.

"When you have seen players put as much in as some of these individuals have and then to let them down it's the hardest thing.

"It's an emotional sort of experience between you and the players and obviously they a r e incredibly disappointed and you are feeling for them. I find that very, very hard to do."

After the opening game against Ireland, the trimmed-down Welsh group will prepare for a re-match in Dublin on August 29, with the final World Cup squad being named on August 31, ahead of the last warm-up match against Italy in Cardiff on September 5. "The first game against Ireland next week is an opportunity for some of the younger or less-established players to put claims and then the game against them away we'll probably put out a much more experienced side," said Gatland.

"Two days after that we've got to select the World Cup squad and then that home game against Italy will be when that squad plays.

"For us it's a challenge, because we've got to look at our World Cup schedule.

"Our opening game is against Uruguay, then six days' later we've got England, which is going to be massive and then we've got a five-day turnaround to Fiji.

"There is no way the same team is going to be able to back up three times in a row in that small turnaround period. We have got to look at how we mix and match the squad to get the best out of the players."

Full interview: Pages 42&43

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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Jul 31, 2015
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