Six Nations 2015: Wales will have no fears at World Cup, says Gatland
Wales head coach insists they will go into rugby showpiece with confidence after four consecutive wins after England defeat
Warren Gatland insists that Wales will have no fears later this year when they take on England and Australia at Twickenham in the Rugby World Cup.
The Wales head coach oversaw a remarkable RBS 6 Nations comeback to win their last four matches after defeat to England in Cardiff in the opening round of the championship.
But it wasn’t enough for a third title in four seasons despite a record 61-20 win in Italy on a remarkable day for the tournament as records were rewritten.
Having seen Wales run riot in Rome, Ireland began their match against Scotland at a canter and never looked back in a 40-10 win, which condemned the woeful Scots to the wooden spoon.
There is no fear about playing England at Twickenham or Australia as well, because we know we will be in good shape as long as everyone stays fit and clear of injuries. We can go there with some real confidence and belief that we can get out of our group.
That left England with a thankless task of needing to defeat France at Twickenham by 26 points in the final game of the game to deny Ireland the title, and Stuart Lancaster’s men did themselves proud as they came close in a nailbiting thriller of a contest that ended 55-35 in the Red Rose’s favour.
While attention turns back to club rugby for the next 10 weeks, it is hard not to look at the Six Nations ahead of the Rugby World Cup, now less than six months away.
While Gatland concedes that it will be a tough pool for Wales up against England, Australia, Fiji and Uruguay, with one of rugby’s three top 10 nations failing to reach the knock-out stages, Wales will go into the tournament with confidence after their end to the Six Nations.
“We won’t be going into the World Cup with any fears of not qualifying from our group,” Gatland said.
“There is no fear about playing England at Twickenham or Australia as well, because we know we will be in good shape as long as everyone stays fit and clear of injuries.
“We can go there with some real confidence and belief that we can get out of our group.
“You have sides ranked fourth, fifth and sixth in the world, so that shows how tough it is to get out of that group, while Fiji with preparation will be tough as well.
“It is unfortunate that you are going to have one of the big teams not making the quarter-finals.”
The manner of Wales’ second-half performance at the Stadio Olimpico set the tone for the afternoon on what was the most superb of Super Saturdays as Gatland’s charges ran in seven tries for 47 points, including an 11-minute George North hat-trick.
It was probably a 14-point swing in terms of the points difference, but at half-time you would have taken that scoreline. I was proud of the boys and the effort, and the way they responded with some great rugby in the second half.
Warren Gatland on Wales’ record 61-20 win over Italy
But there were plenty of other notable support roles, including scrum-half Rhys Webb, Liam Williams, Scott Williams, and captain Sam Warburton, all of whom added to Jamie Roberts’ first-half score.
With full-back Leigh Halfpenny withdrawn with concussion in the first half, kicking duties reverted to outside-half Dan Biggar and the Ospreys hero was in fine form as he showed world rugby that, like Halfpenny, he is a world class goal kicker.
It was the perfect riposte to a first half that saw Wales held to a 14-13 lead by a resilient Italy side keen to spoil the party and survive the absence of talisman Sergio Parisse.
Few fans in the Italian capital, or watching from afar, would have dreamt that Wales could put 40 or 50 points on the Azzurri, and less so after a disappointing opening 40, and Gatland admits they were under pressure in the first half.
“Everyone talks about the first half and second half, but in international rugby it does not matter who you are playing against, it’s difficult to put a team away,” he added.
“We were under a bit of pressure at scrum-time in the first half and conceded a penalty from the kick-off.
“Italy really slowed the game down, but once we got into the game and got in front we started to play and we were very good.
“The message at half-time was to make sure we were more accurate and kept the tempo up in the second half
“We scored some great tries. The disappointing thing was conceding one right at the end and then missing a chance.
“It was probably a 14-point swing in terms of the points difference, but at half-time you would have taken that scoreline.
“I was proud of the boys and the effort, and the way they responded with some great rugby in the second half.”