Gatland expects Welsh to give all, even for a bronze

TOKYO • The third-place play-off is the game no team wants to play and such is the gloom surrounding the fixture that alcohol may be the only way to lift the spirits.

So it was only appropriate for Wales coach Warren Gatland to call for a speed-drinking game to settle tomorrow's dreaded bronze-medal Rugby World Cup match between his side and New Zealand.

Joking yesterday that he could "see the relevance in that", Gatland, whose 12-year reign will end after the Japan tournament, revealed the idea had been put forth by the All Blacks head. "Steve Tew (New Zealand Rugby Union chief executive) made a joke to Martyn Phillips (Welsh Rugby Union chief executive) that both teams should have a boat race and we could settle it that way," said Gatland.

Asked who would win the boat race - where members of a team down as many beers in sequence - he replied: "(Lock) Bradley Davies. We might have one after the game."

Turning serious, he confirmed that he would ring the changes following their bruising semi-final defeat by South Africa, with nine new players coming in as Wales get ready to take on the three-time world champions in Tokyo.

England beat New Zealand in the semi-finals after forming a V shape to challenge the All Blacks' haka, but the Kiwi Gatland, who has never beaten his own country as a coach, said there were no plans for a response to the pre-match ritual despite it being his last game in charge of the Welsh.

"We haven't even spoken about the haka. We might do a 'W' for Wales. It hasn't really crossed my mind," said Gatland, who will next coach Super Rugby outfit Chiefs.

"Even though we'd like to not be playing the bronze-medal game, it's an opportunity for us to go out there, give our best and then reflect afterwards. It would be easy for us to throw in the towel, but I expect these players to lift themselves in the next 48 hours."

On being the figurehead for Welsh rugby, with four Six Nations titles to boot, he had kind words for his adopted nation.

"I never thought I'd be with Wales for 12 years. I was lucky enough to have some sabbaticals (to coach the British and Irish Lions) and that was really good for me mentally," he added.

"I'd just really like to thank the Welsh public. It's been challenging at times but they've made it worthwhile, just in terms of how welcoming they've been.

"I'm going to miss being there but you've got to look forward and be excited. One more game and then I'll start thinking about the next challenge."


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 31, 2019, with the headline 'Gatland expects Welsh to give all, even for a bronze'. Print Edition | Subscribe