Mental strength an issue for some - Gatland

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Last updated 11:56 21/11/2012
Wales
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FORM FALTER: Warren Gatland admits some players are struggling to cope with the media criticism of their performance.

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Wales coach Warren Gatland has revealed many of his players have struggled to cope with a barrage of media criticism and personal abuse on Twitter during the side's recent run of losses.

And though the British and Irish Lions coach said he was no "saviour" after rejoining the Welsh squad this week, he is confident he can re-stoke their confidence before they play the All Blacks on Sunday (NZT).

"It's not a physical issue, it's just getting the head right about facing a daunting challenge and getting excited about it," Gatland said when asked about Wales' run of five losses.

"The players are well aware some of their form hasn't been perhaps what it could be. There's a little bit of a confidence issue for one or two and some of them are dealing with some criticism that's come from the outside and they haven't experienced that before. It's been quite personal for some of them."

That included "abuse" on social media website Twitter that had particularly affected some of the younger members of the team.

"These are young men, very young men and they've had to cope with some of the pressures," Gatland said. "They've had criticism within the media and a couple of players have, and it gives you an idea of the social media and the potential difficulties they face, a bit of abuse on Twitter and things like that and they have had to handle that."

Gatland has been away on British and Irish Lions duties for the past two tests, but though local media are painting the former Waikato hooker as a potential saviour, he took a more realistic view.

"I went in yesterday and sat at the coaches table and made a joke and said, 'The messiah is back'" he said. "A couple of the coaches said, 'Piss off'. It was exactly the response I wanted. My presence in the last couple of weeks wouldn't have made a difference."

Where he does believe he can help is in helping his players get back into the right mindset to challenge the All Blacks at Millennium Stadium.

"They have to learn to cope with that. They are young men and a lot of them have experienced a lot of success. Now they have had a little dip and they have to face the challenge of a bit of criticism and how they deal with that and mature with that.

"Make no bones about the fact we are disappointed. We set pretty high standards in the last 12 months and that comes back to the expectation that we perform to a high level and we haven't done that in the last couple of weeks.

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"Every team goes through a bit of dip and we've just gone through a bit of a dip at the moment, but I think in the last 12-14 months our form has been excellent. We just have to recapture that this weekend."

Gatland has made five changes to the side that lost to Samoa including the recall to the starting side of openside Sam Warburton, who also takes over as captain from Justin Tipuric, who moves to bench.

In the backs Rhys Priestland replaces Dan Biggar at first five eighth, while Jonathan Davies returns from a groin injury at second five eighth to partner Jamie Roberts.

"It's our number one backline from the last twelve months. Players are still down in confidence a little bit but the boys were good yesterday they trained well today," Gatland said.

 

Wales: Leigh Halfpenny, Alex Cuthbert, Jonathan Davies, Jamie Roberts, George North, Rhys Priestland, Mike Phillips, Toby Faletau, Sam Warburton (c), Ryan Jones, Luke Charteris, Bradley Davies, Aaron Jarvis, Matthew Rees, Paul James. Reserves: Ken Owens, Gethin Jenkins, Scott Andrews, Aaron Shingler, Justin Tipuric, Tavis Knoyle, James Hook, Scott Williams.

- Stuff

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