Coach Warren Gatland spurs on weary Wales against Australia

Wales coach Warren Gatland
Warren Gatland says players have felt the effects of a hard World Cup

Warren Gatland admits Saturday's Test with Australia is not ideally scheduled but believes it will play an important part in building future success.

The Wales coach says the Wallabies clash is the beginning of a "new cycle" and will also generate vital funds.

"I think for all of us, on reflection, it potentially is a game that maybe is a little bit too far," Gatland said.

"But the thing is the international game generates the money and it's a way of helping with the regions."

The match in Cardiff's Millennium Stadium will be Wales' 17th this year - six games more than in the previous three years.

Gatland says his players needed a rest after their "emotional" World Cup campaign, where Wales finished fourth.

The New Zealander says the physical toll has also been felt, with at least 15 of the 28 players who reported to the Wales camp last week unable to train immediately because they were "injured or knocked around a little bit".

But Gatland believes the build-up to the 2015 World Cup in England begins on Saturday against Australia, with rookies such as prop Scott Andrews - making his first start - and uncapped Alex Cuthbert on the bench being given the chance to stake a claim.

"It's a new cycle that we've got to start thinking about; the short-term stuff is the Six Nations," Gatland added.

"Then you've got to start looking at the long term and talking about 2015, thinking about building the depth.

"The exciting thing is a lot of these players will be around the next four years and the challenge for them is to continue their form, to continue to improve and not stagnate... it's exciting times for Wales I think."

While Gatland is looking to the future, his hand forced somewhat by injuries and the unavailability of players at French and English clubs, he admits there are also financial "pressures".

"There's a commitment that the WRU [Welsh Rugby Union] has to help in funding the professional game, funding the community game," Gatland said.

"This game will see money generated from television rights, sponsors, from the crowd - there's always that pressure on you to play games.

"It's not always the ideal situation when you feel like the players need or deserve a rest.

"But you're well aware of that financial pressure that either the Union or the regions are under, in particular at the moment given the state of the economy."

The fractured nature of the northern hemisphere rugby season has its critics in Wales, with many coaches believing that each competition - club or international - should be played in individual blocks.

Scarlets coach Nigel Davies says the timing of this game is a consequence of that "crazy" structure, and argues the southern hemisphere model should be followed here.

"They start with the club season, from that they pick their provincial sides and they have their provincial season," said Davies.

"From that they go into the international season and then they go on tour. It's perfect really and it works very well for them.

"The demands on these players are just ridiculous. For us to try to balance it as regions and clubs is very difficult.

"The coaches and the players are victims of the way the season is structured."

With the Six Nations to begin on the first weekend in February, Wales will enter the competition as the only side to have played a game since the end of the World Cup in October.

Gatland conceded that recapturing the spirit and momentum generated at the World Cup has been difficult in the build-up to Saturday's match with Australia.

But with injuries and absentees depriving him of his strongest starting line-up, he hopes youngsters such as Lloyd Williams, Scott Williams and Cuthbert use the game as a platform to further their career.

"There's an opportunity for a few players to stake a claim for the Six Nations so it's exciting for those players to get a chance to go and impress," Gatland said.

"And for everyone as well, it's a farewell to Shane Williams on a fantastic career.

"There are not that many people who get the opportunity to call it a day on their international career on their own terms."

Team details:

Wales: Leigh Halfpenny (Cardiff Blues); George North (Scarlets), Scott Williams (Scarlets), Jamie Roberts (Cardiff Blues), Shane Williams (Ospreys); Rhys Priestland (Scarlets), Lloyd Williams (Blues); Gethin Jenkins (Blues), Huw Bennett (Ospreys), Scott Andrews (Blues), Bradley Davies (Blues), Ian Evans (Ospreys), Dan Lydiate (Newport Gwent Dragons), Sam Warburton (Blues, capt), Toby Faletau (Dragons).

Replacements: Matthew Rees (Scarlets), Ryan Bevington (Ospreys), Ryan Jones (Ospreys), Justin Tipuric (Ospreys), Tavis Knoyle (Scarlets), Dan Biggar (Ospreys), Alex Cuthbert (Blues).

Australia: Adam Ashley-Cooper (NSW Waratahs); Lachie Turner (NSW Waratahs), Anthony Fainga'a (Queensland Reds), Berrick Barnes (NSW Waratahs), Digby Ioane (Queensland Reds); James O'Connor (Melbourne Rebels), Will Genia (Queensland Reds); James Slipper (Queensland Reds), Tatafu Polota Nau (NSW Waratahs), Salesi Ma'afu (Western Force), James Horwill (Queensland Reds, capt), Rob Simmons (Queensland Reds), Scott Higginbotham (Queensland Reds), David Pocock (Western Force), Ben McCalman (Western Force).

Replacements: Stephen Moore (Brumbies), Ben Alexander (Brumbies), Nathan Sharpe (Western Force), Radike Samo (Queensland Reds), Ben Lucas (Queensland Reds), Ben Tapuai (Queensland Reds), Nick Phipps (Melbourne Rebels).