Six Nations
Gatland tells of year-long Anscombe project
Tom Hamilton
January 20, 2015
Gareth Anscombe kicks at goal for Cardiff © Getty Images

Warren Gatland's 12-month project with Gareth Anscombe came to fruition on Tuesday when the fly-half was included in Wales' squad for the Six Nations.

New Zealand-born Anscombe, who was named after the great Gareth Edwards, has played just nine matches for the Cardiff Blues since his switch from the Chiefs in October but Gatland is relishing the chance to utilise his versatility as he starts the charge to what he hopes will be his fourth Six Nations title as Wales coach.

"I met with him [Anscombe] with his dad [Mark Anscombe - former Ulster coach] a bit longer than 12 months ago," Gatland said. "With his mother born in Cardiff we knew he was an option for Wales and the discussion was a very general one about the options he has to play for Wales but there is no pressure from us in terms of his declaration and if you want to go back and continue playing Super Rugby and have those dreams of playing for the All Blacks then I didn't have a problem with that.

"He went back and had another year at the Chiefs and probably looked at some of the players who were ahead of him. A couple of years ago him and Beauden Barrett were the two 10s for the Under-20s and Beauden has go on to get the opportunities and Gareth thought for him to fulfil his dreams of playing international rugby then the best opportunity for him was to come to the Blues and make himself available for Wales both in the short and hopefully long-term."

Anscombe, 23, is equally adept at fullback and fly-half and Gatland said his versatility worked in his favour when it came to weighing up the various options in the backs.

"I think he has been reasonably impressive and it has been tough for him to come through Auckland, the New Zealand Under-20s and then moving to the Chiefs while being able to move between 10 and 15 and goal-kick," Gatland said. "We want to have a good look at him in this window and see how it goes."

He continued: "He's mentally tough. I had a good chat with Wayne Smith about him and Wayne couldn't speak more highly of him. He's very coachable and wants to learn. The Chiefs were impressed by him as a player and an individual and when the recommendation comes from Wayne Smith you have to take notice of that."

Wales are currently blessed with a number of good options at 10 and Anscombe was preferred to the likes of James Hook, Rhys Patchell and Owen Williams. With Anscombe included alongside Dan Biggar and Rhys Priestland, Gatland is anticipating a heated battle for the fly-half jersey as the World Cup ticks closer.

"We have some good depth there at the moment and there are players pushing hard. There is a difference of 10s as well. There's Dan Biggar with his qualities and Rhys Priestland with his strengths and some weaknesses for him to work on and Gareth gives us a different option. There is strength in depth there and there will be an interesting fight for that position over the next six months."

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd
Tom Hamilton is the Associate Editor of ESPNscrum.

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