CHRIS KIRWAN: Verdicts unlikely to be shaped by the evidence at Wales 'trial'
10:02am Thursday 15th May 2014 in Sport
WARREN Gatland prides himself on being a straight talker.
When Wales were thumped by Ireland in the Six Nations he laid it on the line to his misfiring players ahead of the France game.
"It's not a nice thing to hear off your coach," said Dan Lydiate. "But Gats has always been honest with his players, and I'd rather be told than talked about elsewhere but not be told personally.
"That's the level we're at and I want it to continue that way.
"You want to know where you're at. If you deserve praise you get it and if you deserve a kick up the backside, you get that as well."
But it is hard to take the New Zealander seriously when he talks about places in the Test team to face the Springboks being up for grabs in the forthcoming probables versus possibles trial.
"We want to make sure this trial has real teeth. It's important the players will be selected on their performance," he said on Tuesday.
Regular readers will already know that I am a glass-half-empty chap but even I am quite intrigued and excited by the May 30 encounter.
It fills a gap in the calendar before the South Africa tour and will serve as a nice aperitif to the weekend's RaboDirect Pro12, Aviva Premiership and Top 14 finals.
But this is a conditioning game for the first-teamers to blow away the cobwebs not a trial.
Gatland could name his 31-man squad now and it will be nigh on impossible for the members of the possibles – many of whom would be more at home in a side called the 'fat chances' – to force their way onto the plane.
The fact that the South Africa group will be named after the post-trial meal indicates that there are very few choices to be made; Gatland, Rob Howley, Robin McBryde and Shaun Edwards don't need to sleep on many, if any, decisions.
That does not render the whole exercise pointless – although some of the selections are baffling, what does Argus Dragon of the Year Lewis Evans have to do to get a call-up? Two Dragons looseheads? – but the trial is being built up to be something it is not.
There is some value in having an extended group of players training at the national base so that Gatland & Co can take a close look at some individuals who have been on their radar.
It's a great chance for some fringe players to give a final nudge to the men that they have been trying to impress all season but it's what goes on over a week in the Vale of Glamorgan that will count more than 80 minutes at the Liberty Stadium.
A note of caution for the probables, such hit-outs have the danger of making you look a tad foolish.
When a second-string Dragons side took on a Gwent Select XV on August 4, 2012 their legs were weary after a week of intense fitness work.
Nonetheless, the full-timers should have sent the semi-professionals from Newport, Cross Keys and Bedwas packing. Instead they were humbled 16-10, the precursor to a miserable campaign.
The probables will be expected to brush the possibles aside at the Liberty Stadium. Don't expect Gatland to axe them if they fail to do so but a defeat or an underwhelming display will leave them open to ridicule.
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