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Warren Gatland insists Wales are heat-proof before sweltering showdown with Fiji

08 Sep 2023 4 minute read
Wales head coach Warren Gatland speaks to the media at the CEVA Campus, Bordeaux. Photo David Davies PA Images

Warren Gatland has no doubt that Wales are fully conditioned for Bordeaux’s blistering heat as they aim to turn up the temperature on Rugby World Cup opponents Fiji.

It is due to hit 36 degrees Celsius on Saturday, while not dropping much below 30 a day later despite a kick-off of 9pm local time.

Wales, though, look set to reap the benefits of punishing conditions at training camps in Switzerland and Turkey that formed a central part of their tournament warm-up.

“I think in international rugby you have to go to dark places and you have to be hurting,” Wales head coach Gatland said.

“It’s whether other teams are hurting that little bit more than you.

“Everyone is talking about the heat being an advantage to Fiji, but we’ve had some pretty gruelling sessions in heat so we are conditioned to that.

“We’ve been comfortable with the pace of the game and the intensity of the game. Probably from the warm-up games, where the ball-in-play time against England in the first game was 39 minutes, we looked good.

“In the second game against England, it was 30 minutes and it probably didn’t allow us to use some of the hard work we’ve put in. It has definitely been a focus for us.”

Fierce challenge

Wales meet Fiji for the fifth successive World Cup in a pool game, and while they have won three in a row after being dumped out of the 2007 tournament, they are expecting a fierce challenge.

Fiji’s quality – and a far stronger set-piece than previously – was highlighted in their historic victory over England at Twickenham last month.

Gatland added: “You’ve just got to defend well for a start. We know they are dangerous.

“At some stage, they will make a break or get an offload away. It’s then how we react to that quickly.

“For us, we’ve spoken about discipline and keeping them out of our 22. They tend to come alive in opposition 22s. We are in a good place for the challenge, physically and mentally.”

It will be Gatland’s fourth World Cup at the Wales helm after masterminding semi-final appearances in 2011 and 2019, while they also reached the quarter-finals in 2013.

There are similarities with that 2011 campaign in New Zealand, when Wales were captained by a 22-year-old Sam Warburton, while this time around 23-year-old Jac Morgan leads them into tournament battle.

New faces

As 12 years ago, there is also a sprinkling of exciting young players, with Morgan and his co-captain Dewi Lake leading a crop that includes the likes of Sam Costelow, Rio Dyer and Mason Grady.

“We’ve had some new faces come in, which has been great for the group. A lot of young players have got some experience,” Gatland said.

“We’ve had some issues in Welsh rugby. Hopefully those are behind us now and we can completely focus on this World Cup.

“I get nervous myself. I think nerves are always a positive. When you are nervous about the game or what potentially might happen, it focuses the mind in terms of what is coming.

“There is nothing wrong with that. I see it as a real positive in terms of the players being right on the edge in terms of their preparation before the game.

“Dan Biggar made a good point this morning, saying we were 10-0 down four years ago after Fiji scored early on, but we kept calm, stuck to our processes and got back into it.

“We know Fiji can start well and we need to start well, but it is making sure we are really clear about what we want to achieve and sticking to the processes in place.”

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