England yesterday added four more players to the list expected to miss the Championship curtain-raiser in Cardiff a week tomorrow, with head coach Stuart Lancaster set to be without Geoff Parling, Brad Barritt, Kyle Eastmond and Tom Wood.
But Gatland is adamant England will still pose a threat in a match which acts as a rehearsal for September’s World Cup Pool A clash at Twickenham, insisting he will not be lured into underestimating the Millennium Stadium visitors.
“If you were England you’d be talking about the injuries and trying to talk Wales up,” said Gatland. “We have to make sure we don’t get distracted by that sort of chat, we have to concentrate on ourselves.”
With fly-half Owen Farrell and forwards Joe Launchbury and Ben Morgan already ruled out of the Six Nations, the last thing Lancaster needed was further bad news on the injury front.
Centre Manu Tuilagi, prop Dan Cole and lock Courtney Lawes are set to miss the early stages of the tournament, and England’s most-recent wounded quartet now fall into a similar category.
“With Geoff [Parling], the original prognosis was not that good and although he will struggle for the Wales game, we’ve not ruled him out of the Italy game. Brad [Barritt] is a similar prognosis,” added Lancaster. “Kyle [Eastmond] is still being assessed but the clock is definitely ticking for Wales. As for Tom [Wood], he will struggle to make Cardiff.”
ABSENT AGAINST WALES
Injuries and potential return dates
Forwards: Dan Cole (ankle, two weeks), Joe Launchbury (neck, April), Courtney Lawes (ankle, mid-late February), Geoff Parling (knee, after Wales match), Ed Slater (knee, April), Tom Wood (ankle, after Wales match), Ben Morgan (leg, next season)
Backs: Ben Foden (knee, next season), Manu Tuilagi (groin, February), Kyle Eastmond (shoulder, after Wales match), Brad Barritt (knee, after Wales), Owen Farrell (knee, after Six Nations)