Blues' flyhalf stocks take a hit
Blues' flyhalf stocks take a hitSHARE
The New Zealand Herald reported that 22-year-old Gatland is set to compete for the Highlanders No. 10 shirt that will be up for grabs when incumbent Lima Sopoaga departs for London Wasps at the end of the season.
Gatland seems to have fallen down Tana Umaga’s pecking order and his path to the Blues’ starting side will only get tougher once Otere Black returns from a knee injury next season.
Gatland is on a full contract with the Blues after playing a bit-part in 2017, and earned a starting nod for the first four games of the season.
However, veteran Daniel Kirkpatrick has since ousted Gatland as he has fallen off the team sheet in consecutive weeks.
23-year-old Fletcher Smith and 22-year-old Josh Ioane currently play behind Sopoaga at the Highlanders, so Gatland will still be faced with some stiff competition once he moves.
When asked how Gatland fits in the Blues’ current plans, head coach Tana Umaga said: “He’s still in our thinking all the time. We’re having conversations. As you can tell, we’re trying to get some experience into our side at the moment. That’s part of it.
"It’s tough on our young men. When you talk about pressure … I’ve been through that before.
:We’re talking about guys who probably haven’t been through that and we have to help them and support them,"
Gatland has had plenty of ups and downs in his young career, starting with Waikato at the provincial level before joining North Harbour and guiding them to promotion.
His play earned him selection for the Provincial Barbarians, where he impressed against the British and Irish Lions, coached by his father Warren. He also had a brief Super Rugby stint with the Crusaders as injury cover, though he never took the field.