Wales aren’t ready to go home yet – Warren Gatland
Warren Gatland says that Wales are not ready to go home and they will embrace the pressure surrounding Saturday’s Rugby World Cup quarter-final against Argentina.
Victory over the Pumas in Marseille would see Wales reach a third World Cup semi-final under Gatland.
And while the Wales head coach had short shrift for those complaining about the World Cup draw being conducted in late 2020 – two heavyweight contenders out of France, Ireland, New Zealand and South Africa will be eliminated this weekend – his sole focus is on events at Stade Velodrome.
“The quarter-final poses its own challenges and pressures because you are either here until the end of the tournament or you are going home on Monday,” Gatland said.
“Definitely as a squad, we are not ready to go home. It is pressure rugby now in the knockout stages, and that is what we have prepared for.
“You have just got to embrace it (pressure). You cannot hide away from it, and we know within the squad the preparation that has gone into this World Cup.
“We are not surprised where we are. We think we are in pretty good shape from a physical point of view, but also a mental point of view in terms of our preparation.
“If you read or listened to anyone a couple of months ago, there was speculation, people predicting we would not get out of the group.
“We haven’t spoken about underdogs or favourite tags. We are just going through our own processes and working as hard as we can to make sure the preparation is right for Saturday.”
Dan Biggar and Liam Williams have been passed fit to start against Argentina, while centre George North will become the first Welshman to feature in four World Cup quarter-finals.
Biggar had been battling to overcome a chest injury and Williams was a doubt because of a knee problem, but they have been given the all-clear and start at fly-half and full-back, respectively.
There is no place in the matchday 23 for Gareth Anscombe, however, after he was forced to withdraw 45 minutes before kick-off against Georgia last Saturday because of a groin issue.
Taulupe Faletau’s World Cup-ending broken arm sustained in the 43-19 victory over the Georgians has resulted in a reshuffle to the back-row.
Aaron Wainwright moves across from blindside flanker to fill the void at number eight created by Faletau’s injury, while skipper Jac Morgan takes the number six shirt.
Leicester flanker Tommy Reffell, meanwhile, comes in at openside to complete the back-row adjustments.
Asked for his verdict on the perceived lopsided draw – the bottom half features Wales, Argentina, England and Fiji and was based on world rankings in January 2020 – Gatland added: “I would just say to the other teams they should have done better in the last World Cup. That is where the draw came from.
“It is not our fault this happened. You didn’t hear us complaining in 2015 about Fiji, Australia, England and ourselves being in the same pool. We didn’t complain about that.
“You are dealt a hand and you have just got to deal with that.
“I agree with the sentiment that the draw may have been done too early. It has been done too early in the past, and whether the people in control of that next time can put the pools together a bit later, that is up to them.
“We can’t change what has been done. We can only play what’s in front of us. In saying that, I thought our group was the most even.”
Wales have lost only two of their last 11 Tests against Argentina, and while Gatland’s team made an unbeaten march through their group, collecting 19 points from a possible 20, the Pumas struggled.
They lost to 14-man England, found it hard going against Samoa and only secured a last-eight place with a final game victory over Japan.
Gatland said: “They bring that South American mentality, they are very passionate and that is why they have won big games against top teams in the past in the southern hemisphere.
“They don’t give up, they stay in the fight. They are a really tough team to break down and beat, and it is going to be a big challenge for us.”
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