Gatland confident of bold Cup showing

CARDIFF • Warren Gatland believes Wales will go a "long way" at the Rugby World Cup and are capable of beating anyone to give him a winning farewell.

The 55-year-old New Zealander will bring the curtain down on his 12-year reign after the quadrennial showpiece in Japan but was in upbeat form despite his final Test in Cardiff ending in a 22-17 defeat by Ireland - the team he most likes to beat because of his sacking as head coach in 2001.

The loss on Saturday also halted Wales's winning home streak dating back to November 2017 at 11.

Wales also lost their world No. 1 ranking to New Zealand and dropped to fourth place behind the All Blacks, Ireland and England.

Gatland - who will go on to lead the Chiefs before taking a year off for a third stint as British and Irish Lions coach - said he will have his strongest-ever squad for his third World Cup in charge of Wales.

"It's the best squad in terms of the depth we've got," he said, "If we do pick up a few injuries like we did in 2015, I think we would be able to cope so much better now.

"The expectation from ourselves is that we will be very disappointed if we don't make the quarter-finals, and that's step one. Then you take every game as it comes."

Gatland, whose best showing is the 2011 semi-final defeat by France, said anything was possible if the team were both mentally and physically in perfect shape.

"We've massively over-achieved in what we've done in the last 12 years," said Gatland, who has guided Wales to three Six Nations Grand Slams including this year's edition. "We are not finished yet. If we are mentally and physically right, we're capable of beating anyone in the world. I believe we will go a long way at this World Cup."

He announced his 31-man World Cup squad yesterday, picking 18 forwards and 13 backs. He said: "We feel there is an excellent blend to the squad, in terms of talent, experience and age profile."

Jarrod Evans, who started against Ireland, did not make the cut, meaning Rhys Patchell will be backup fly-half to Dan Biggar.

A surprise omission was prop Rob Evans, who was first choice during Wales' 2019 Grand Slam campaign. Instead, the five spots for the position have gone to Rhys Carre, Nicky Smith, Tomas Francis, Dillon Lewis and Wyn Jones.

Lock Cory Hill is included despite currently being sidelined with a small fracture in his leg.

Wales are in Pool D alongside two-time world champions Australia, Georgia, Fiji and Uruguay.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 02, 2019, with the headline 'Gatland confident of bold Cup showing'. Print Edition | Subscribe