Gareth Anscombe: Warren Gatland keeping faith in Cardiff Blues fly-half

Gareth Anscombe
Gareth Anscombe has scored over 500 points for the Cardiff Blues since he joined in 2014
Six Nations: France v Wales
Venue: Stade de France, Paris Date: Friday, 1 February Kick-off: 20:00 GMT
Coverage: Live on BBC One, BBC One Wales & S4C, BBC Radio 5 live, BBC Radio Wales, BBC Radio Cymru & BBC Sport website and BBC Sport app, plus live text commentary.

Wales are keeping faith with fly-half Gareth Anscombe so as not to dent his confidence, according to head coach Warren Gatland.

The Cardiff Blues player established himself in the side as Wales won all four of their autumn Tests last year.

Now Anscombe has kept his place for Friday's Six Nations opener in France, with 65-cap Dan Biggar on the bench.

"For us, as much as anything, it wasn't about a rugby decision, it was about a confidence decision," said Gatland.

"He [Anscombe] has done pretty well for us and was really good in the autumn.

"And Dan Biggar was good for us coming off the bench, and obviously his goal-kicking. Defensively he is very strong as well, but Gareth had a very good autumn.

"If we left Gareth out and put Dan in, potentially Gareth could be thinking, 'What have I done wrong?' And does that knock his confidence a little bit for us going forward?

"By leaving Dan out at the moment, it is not going to knock his confidence because he is just going to wait for that opportunity when he does get a start.

"So it was more of a non-rugby decision than an actual rugby decision."

Dan Biggar scores against Australia
Wales fly-half Dan Biggar kicked the winning penalty against Australia in the autumn after coming off the bench

Anscombe enjoyed an excellent autumn campaign, starting in Wales' wins over Scotland, Australia and South Africa.

Notwithstanding the victory over Tonga - for which he was rested - the 27-year-old is more settled in the side than he ever has been.

Since making his debut in 2015, Anscombe has been in and out of the team, with 10 of his 21 appearances coming as a replacement.

His versatility was initially both a blessing and a curse; his ability to play as a full-back as well as a fly-half meaning he was often left on the bench early in his international career.

But his consistent displays for Cardiff Blues - combined with injuries to the likes of Biggar and Rhys Patchell - presented Anscombe with an opportunity he has grasped with relish.

The former New Zealand Under-20s player is regarded as a more attacking fly-half than Biggar, even if his goal-kicking and defence may not quite be at the same standard as his rival for the 10 jersey.

"They complement each other pretty well, those two, in terms of the strengths of the one and the strengths of the other," said Gatland.

"Both were good in the autumn, and I thought our bench was very significant in the autumn."

Watch Eddie Butler's Six Nations, a celebration of the annual tournament, Thursday, 31 January, BBC One Wales, 20:00 GMT - and later on demand.

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