Welsh rugby: Warren Gatland looks to the future after stars' farewell

Leigh Halfpenny walks between Barbarians players
Fond farewell: Leigh Halfpenny said he has 'loved every moment' of his Wales career

Warren Gatland praised the "incredible" service of three retiring Wales greats as he set his sights on the Six Nations.

The Wales coach was pleased with his team's attacking display in the 49-26 victory over Barbarians in Cardiff.

It marked a Principality Stadium farewell for Leigh Halfpenny, Alun Wyn Jones and Justin Tipuric.

"For them to all have that game here in the stadium was incredibly special," said Gatland.

Between them, Halfpenny, Jones and Tipuric had more than 350 Wales caps while Dan Biggar has also called time on their Test careers.

"Tips proved there's still life in the old boy yet," said Gatland.

"He played well and caused us a few problems at the breakdown. Al as well.

"I don't think Leigh gets a lot of credit for how good he is defensively with his tackling and covering breakdowns out wide. It's about want and effort and always had that.

"The ovation he got is testament to him not just as a rugby player, but as a person."

Halfpenny to 'miss' Wales

Halfpenny, the third highest points-scorer for Wales, also delivered a typically perfect kicking display on Saturday, converting five from five with the boot before making way to huge applause 14 minutes from time.

He said: "It's a special day. I feel a huge honour and privilege to have worn this jersey for the last 15 years, I've loved every second.

"I'm going to miss it, I'm going to miss this place [the Principality Stadium], but I'm hugely grateful to everyone who's helped me along the way."

Jones, who retired from Test rugby before the World Cup as the world's most-capped player, scored a try in a man-of-the-match performance for Barbarians before returning to see out the remainder of his short-term deal with Toulon.

He said: "It was surreal playing against Wales but it's been long journey and I'm so grateful. Welsh rugby will keep growing and hopefully with a new generation coming through."

Part of that new generation was on show on Saturday with 10 of the 23-strong squad in single figures for caps, including uncapped tight-head props Lloyd Fairbrother and Harri O'Connor.

"When you consider Lloyd and Harri were up against an All Black in Joe Moodly and [Australia's] Taniela Tupou, they should be proud of themselves," said Gatland.

"The boys speak highly of Lloyd's scrummaging and hopefully he's learned from that game."

Sam Costelow ran the show in the first half, Rio Dyer thrilled, wing Tom Rogers scored and forwards Corey Domachowski, Dewi Lake and Ben Carter impressed.

"You've got to be pretty happy with scoring 49 points though we probably left a few out there in the first half, with some of the opportunities we created," said Gatland.

"Our set-piece was good. We scrummaged well, the lineout was outstanding today - both defensively and on attack. That was important as a stepping stone.

"There are always things to improve. They [Barbarians] put us under some pressure with their offloads but I was pleased with the composure and the development of a number of youngsters.

"We create things but we're not always communicating that well from the outside.

"Perhaps we also need to scan better, looking at who is opposite you and where the threats are. Those are the areas we still need to work on.

"But I'm pleased with this group and the way Jac (Morgan) is leading them. He's been outstanding.

"We know this next Six Nations will be a challenge but if you keep working hard and believing, we're capable of winning matches. We showed that in the World Cup.

"We're pretty gutted we let a huge opportunity slip by in not putting Argentina away when we were on top in the first-half. Those are all big learnings for us, but we've got to be excited about these next four years."