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Anscombe looking to thrive under pressure

22nd November 2018

Gareth Anscombe will be looking to thrive under pressure after earning the number 10 jersey for Wales' final autumn Test against South Africa on Saturday.

The outside half was rested for last week’s comprehensive victory over Tonga, where his rivals for the starting spot - Dan Biggar and Rhys Patchell - crossed the whitewash.

However, head coach Warren Gatland kept faith in the Cardiff Blues star, who started the games against Scotland and Australia.

In the absence of Leigh Halfpenny and Biggar, Anscombe will have the responsibilites of goal-kicking, but he insists he won’t be overwhelmed by the occasion.

“A goal of mine was to keep the 10 jersey, and it’s good for the team that we have a competition going on in that position, amongst the other positions,” said Anscombe.

“I thought Biggs [Dan Biggar] played very well last week against Tonga, and when Patch [Rhys Patchell] came on, he caused them a lot of problems as well.

“I’m well aware of how good the other players are and thankfully I’ve been given another chance to do the jersey justice and I’m looking forward to it.

“I’ve enjoyed playing consistently in one position, and that has been good for my rugby.

“There will be a little bit of added pressure with the goal kicking duties this week but I enjoy that aspect of the game and it’s a pressure that I’m looking forward to.

“I’m confident in my abilities off-the-tee and my percentages talk for themselves in the Guinness PRO14. I’m happy with where I’m at there.

“It’s nice that the coaches have rewarded the team that have gone well so far. It’s nice to have their backing and I’ve enjoyed my time leading the team around and I’m feeling more comfortable each week.

“It was a goal of mine to put my hand up there and hopefully I can keep going from strength-to-strength.

“There are parts of my game that I need to keep working on so hopefully I can keep improving.”

A win on Saturday would see Wales seal their first-ever autumn clean sweep, heading into the 2019 RBS 6 Nations on a nine-game winning streak.

Anscombe expects a typically tough challenge against the Springboks, and admits they must be clever with possession and territory.

Anscombe said: “We’ve got a big challenge this week against a pretty physical South African side and it will take a big effort.

“They’re hugely physical and are playing with a lot of confidence at the moment. It’s important when you’re playing against a team like South Africa to play in the right areas of the park.

“They have a big pack, a big scrum and a big maul and if you give away some silly penalties and allow them to get up the field, you’ll probably pay the price.

“We’ll have to be smart with where we play the game and we’ll have to look to shift them around a few times. I’ll need to help to vary our play, along with our midfielders.

“We have a few plans in place but it will be down to the half-backs to move us around the park. 

“The Australia game was a pretty physical game and we’re expecting nothing less than that against South Africa. It’s going to take a big physical effort to stand up to them.

“To win every game would be a big step in the right direction, but we’re trying to take each game as it comes.

“When we first got together, we felt that we could win all four games and thankfully we’ve won the three games to date.

“It would be a big reward for all the hard work we’ve put in. It’s been a pretty intense five weeks and a win would be a nice way to finish off the autumn series. It would give us a piggyback going into the Six Nations, and to win nine-in-a-row would be a special achievement at international level.”