Warren Gatland says he will not apologize for pushing his Wales players “to the limit” when the countdown to France 2023 begins next week.
Gatland will get his first chance to run the rule over the entire squad with just three months to go until they begin their World Cup campaign.
The players have been training in small groups so far but all 49 are due to report to the Vale of Glamorgan base this week.
BBC Wales Sport looks at what the next 12 weeks have in store before Bordeaux.
Gatland named a 54-strong provisional training squad in May however preparations have since been shaken by several high profile withdrawals.
Former captains Alun Wyn Jones and Justin Tipuric have both announced their retirement from Test rugby, Cory Hill and Rhys Webb have withdrawn from taking up club contracts while Rhys Carre has also been released after failing to hit the ground running. performance target.
All this happened after center Joe Hawkins was ruled ineligible for selection following his move to Exeter Chiefs for next season.
However, four players will be cut from the provisional squad this week before the first training camp.
Where are they going?
As he has done before previous World Cup campaigns, Gatland will push his players through two grueling training camps.
They will return for a third time to the Alpine resort of Fiesch in Switzerland from July 3-17 before heading to the Gloria Sports Arena near Antalya in Turkey from July 23-31.
In harsh conditions, the camps became notorious for their physical and mental demands, though Gatland was unapologetic.
“A lot is being done about health but the camps are not just about brutality,” he said.
“This is an opportunity for us to put in the details that you don’t have time to do in a normal campaign.
“We prided ourselves in the past that we were able to compete with the best teams in the world because we worked so hard that we could play for the full 80 minutes.
“We don’t fold when we’re under the bomb and we can stay in the fight to give ourselves a chance to win.
“Shaun Edwards once said, it’s called a test match because that’s exactly what it is. It tests you in every aspect, your determination, physicality, skill, mental toughness.
“That’s what we’re preparing for so I don’t apologize for pushing the players to the limit to get the best out of them.”
Who is impressed?
Scrum half Tomos Williams looked to have stolen a march on his two Scarlets rivals to make the most of Rhys Webb’s departure and was described as being in “bright form” by Gatland.
Despite Hawkins’ absence, the head coach believes Wales have “real depth” in midfield with the likes of Joe Roberts, Mason Grady and Max Llewelyn impressing in training.
“The centers look pretty exciting. Joe Roberts is a little different, the two midfielders are big and physical, they are quick and they have some good skills,” said Gatland.
Lock Adam Beard was also singled out for praise after a disappointing Six Nations campaign.
“Adam got a lot of criticism from the fans but he’s got his butt off. He looks good and I’d like to see him shut some people up,” Gatland said.
While Gatland is already forced to defend As for how Carre was dropped from the squad, fellow Cardiff props Corey Domachowski and Keiron Assiratti pressed their claims.
He said: “There are some real youngsters that we are excited about. I can’t believe Keiron’s skill level, his management and side-step. I told him he would be a brilliant 10 if he will lose about 40kgs.”
Wales face two previous World Cup winners, including defending champions South Africa.
Gatland said: “We’ve had three good preparation games from a physical point of view in terms of England at home and away and South Africa, and then building up to the opening game. It’s going to be tough. .”
- Saturday 5 August: Wales v England (Principality Stadium)
- Saturday 12 August: England v Wales (Twickenham)
- Saturday 19 August: Wales v South Africa (Principality Stadium)
All teams are allowed to select 33 players for this year’s World Cup – two more than in previous tournaments.
The increase from 31 in Japan 2019 is for the benefit of the players as all teams now have a minimum of five days to rest between games. That saw the tournament extended by a week.
Gatland is expected to name his final squad after facing the Springboks in Cardiff and before the World Rugby deadline of August 28
Gatland also suggested choosing joint captains for the first time.
All teams are nominated host cities for the entire tournament.
Wales arrived in Versailles – 12 miles (19km) west of Paris – on Sunday 3 September with an official welcome ceremony that evening.
Wales are one of the few teams to play all four pool matches in different cities but travel to each by train with tournament organizers keen to reduce the event’s carbon footprint.
World Cup fixtures
- Sunday 10 September: Wales v Fiji (Bordeaux Stadium, Bordeaux)
- Saturday 16 September: Wales vs Portugal (Nice Stadium, Nice)
- Sunday 24 September: Wales vs Australia (OL Stadium, Lyon)
- Saturday 7 October: Wales vs Georgia (Beaujoire stadium, Nantes)
If Wales progress, they will play their quarter-final in Marseille on 14 or 15 October.
Wales have won just three of their last 15 games and finished fifth in the controversial Six Nations as domestic issues took their toll.
But Gatland, who replaced Wayne Pivac in December, believes Wales will see it slip off the radar.
“There’s no doubt that there were a lot of things that happened during the Six Nations, tensions within the squad, divisions. I probably didn’t realize at the time the impact on the team,” he said.
“But Welsh boys like nothing better than to write on their backs.
“Fiji will be dangerous at first but we are in a good side of the draw if we get to the quarter-finals.
“We’ll have to play well to get out of our group but we’ve done the Welsh public proud with the performances they’ve put in that jersey before, so hopefully we can do it again.”