Wales and England are “poles apart” as the teams prepare for next year’s World Cup, says Warren Gatland.
The Wales coach has led his side to a series win in Argentina and they are now on a five-match winning run.
England have been beaten in their past five Tests and have already lost their series in South Africa with one match to play.
“The difference between the teams right now in terms of where we are and where they are is poles apart,” Gatland said.
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Wales are set to rise from fifth to third in the world rankings on Monday after successive wins over the Pumas while England will slip from fourth to sixth. World champions New Zealand are top while Six Nations Grand Slam winners Ireland sit second.
“New Zealand are still pretty good, there’s Ireland and South Africa look like they’re coming good,” added Gatland.
“But we’re in a good place and we know when we put out our best side – what that is at the moment I’m not sure – we’re able to compete with the big boys.”
November internationals ‘a sort of World Cup pre-season’
With 15 months until the 2019 World Cup starts, Gatland says everything will now be focused on building towards the competition in Japan.
Wales face Scotland, Australia, Tonga and South Africa in Cardiff successive weekends in November and Gatland said: “We’ll be using that as a conditioning campaign, very much as a sort of World Cup pre-season.
“Everything will be planned for the start of the World Cup. We’re on track and we’ve stuck to what we said we were going to do.
“In the past the more time we’ve had together, the better we’ve been.”
Gatland is the longest-serving head coach of a tier-one nation having led Wales in two World Cups, but he will stand down after next year’s tournament.
“The last two World Cups have shown with the right preparation, we can get a side together who are ready to compete and do well,” said the New Zealander.
“We should have made a semi-final in 2015 – we lost the lead to South Africa with a few minutes to go – and in 2011 we should have reached a World Cup final.
“We’re in the best place we have been in since preceding those last two World Cups and if we don’t pick up too many injuries in the next 12 months or so and our planning and preparation goes to plan, then we’ll be in a really good place.”
Pressure on rested Lions
Wales have beaten South Africa and Argentina this summer while resting the majority of their British and Irish Lions who toured New Zealand last year.
Alun Wyn Jones, Taulupe Faletau, Leigh Halfpenny, Liam Williams, Dan Biggar and Ken Owens were all given time off but will not be guaranteed Wales starting roles in the autumn internationals.
“It’s given everyone lots to think about and that’s great,” said Gatland.
“In the past I’ve been in selection meetings with the coaches and it’s not been looking at who we’re going to leave out, it’s been who we’re going to pick.
“We haven’t had a lot of depth and we’ve spent time just looking for people who can do a job. “
Flankers Ellis Jenkins and James Davies played a starring role on the Argentina tour to add to Wales’ growing back-row strengths.
Justin Tipuric and Faletau were rested, while Josh Navidi and Aaron Shingler are injured and Lions captain Sam Warburton is set to return after a year out.
Gatland joked about his selection dilemma.
“Now I hope four or five of the loose forwards get injured next year because it’s going to be one hell of a headache trying to narrow that down into five or six, based on the way the guys have performed here,” he said.
“It puts the pressure back on the guys who are not here when they get their opportunity.”
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