Wales’ World Cup preparations have gone to another level this week with Warren Gatland’s side training in Turkey where temperatures are touching 40 degrees.
Head coach Gatland is looking to get his side ready for three warm-up games which begin next month. Wales will face England home and away and also host South Africa.
After a gruelling two-week training camp at altitude in the Swiss Alps, Wales had a few days off before travelling to Turkey where the Gloria Sports Arena in Antalya is home.
Increasing the team’s fitness capability remains a big part of Wales’ training but there will also be more of an emphasis on rugby skills in Turkey.
England will arrive in Cardiff for the first World Cup warm-up for both teams on August 5, just a few days after Wales return from Turkey.
Wales’ World Cup preparations have taken the squad to Turkey in 40 degree temperatures
Players also had time to kick back and relax as they went on a boat trip on their day off training
Gatland has admitted he wasn’t fully happy with Wales’ fitness during the Six Nations when his team finished fifth so has been concentrating on that area.
‘From my point of view I think we were reasonable but not anywhere near as good as we were in the past,’ Gatland said. ‘Something we pride ourselves on is playing for 80 minutes and not going away, working incredibly hard for each other, and having that desperation.
‘You’ve seen that in the past and it’s something I’ll definitely be focusing on.
‘There were a number of times during games where teams had made breaks against us that I felt we didn’t work hard enough to get back and weren’t desperate enough.
‘There were a number of things going on off the field but we’ve got to get back to that.
‘We’ve got to build a mental toughness in us again and get back to what we prided ourselves on and what other teams respected us for having.
‘I think getting these players in early will hopefully pay significant dividends for us moving forward in terms of getting to the levels of where we want to be as a squad.’
Away from the training pitch in Turkey, the Wales squad was given a day off on Wednesday which saw many of the squad go sailing.
Gatland returned as Wales head coach and replace the sacked Wayne Pivac at the end of 2022 and saw his team finish fifth in this year’s Six Nations.
Their trip to Turkey (pictured) is a change from their two-week camp in the Swiss Alps
That Championship saw Wales’ players distracted by off-field chaos which involved a threat to strike ahead of their game with England.
Those distractions are now in the past looking ahead to the World Cup.
After facing England twice and then South Africa, Gatland will finalise his 33-man party for the tournament in France.
Fiji, Portugal, Australia and Georgia are Wales’ pool stage opposition.
‘We’ve got a tricky draw because that Fiji game is first up and I look back to 2019 when they pushed Australia pretty hard,’ Gatland said.
‘It was only until the last 20 minutes that Australia got on top of them so it is going to be a real tough one first up when they (Fiji) are fresh and ready to go.
‘But the exciting thing is that you look at the other side of the draw and if you get through your pool and to the quarter finals, it is then about taking one game at a time.
‘We’ve got a lot of work to do but I think there is a little bit of an opportunity to come in under the radar without too may expectations.
‘There will definitely be internal expectations and we will work incredibly hard to hopefully put ourselves in a position where we are competitive.’
Gatland added: ‘We were disappointed with the Six Nations. We definitely improved as the campaign went on. We scored four tries in the last two games.
Warren Gatland was previously unhappy with his side’s fitness during the Six Nations
‘It wasn’t good enough from our standards, but in terms of the teams in the Six Nations we feel we’ve got the biggest uplift and amount of growth.
‘From past experience we have always prided ourselves on how hard we work during World Cups and I don’t think this campaign will be any different.
‘For us as a coaching team, and me as a coach, you’re really excited about World Cups. At times it feels like a club side because of the time you get to have with the players.’
Wales have also confirmed their men’s players will wear shirts with their names on the back for their World Cup warm-up matches.
The move – which is part of improving the squad’s marketability – will see Wales follow England who are already doing it.
The last time Wales’ men’s side wore shirts with their names on was 2008.Wales’ Women will also have their names on their shirts when they play in the inaugural WXV tournament in New Zealand later this year.