Warren Gatland believes Wales should be judged by their performance at the 2015 World Cup, and not by these November Tests, reports JON CARDINELLI in Cardiff….SARugbyMag.co.za
Inevitably, Gatland was asked on Thursday whether he and his team are under pressure following yet another defeat to southern hemisphere opposition. It was the very first question of the press conference, and Gatland’s reaction would set the tone for what was to follow.
The Wales coach grinned and said that an international coach was always under pressure. He then made it clear that results weren’t the be-all and end-all of this November series. For the record, Wales have already lost to Australia and New Zealand this month, and will go into Saturday’s clash against the Springboks as underdogs.
The response spoke volumes for the Wales mindset. Indeed, Thursday’s conference felt like a media session held in the aftermath of a defeat.
The way Gatland was speaking, it was as if Wales had already failed and added yet another loss to their already dismal one from 27 record against the three southern hemisphere giants.
‘I never shy away from the tough questions,’ Gatland said. ‘If you have to ask me about where we are at the moment, though, you have to consider the long-term goal.
‘This Autumn series is not a competition. Next year’s Six Nations is a competition. So is the World Cup next year. And it’s in those tournaments where we should be judged.’
Gatland believes this November series is all about determining where the team stands with regards to performance. He reiterated that Wales’ focus is the World Cup, and playing well enough to ensure they come through a group that includes both England and Australia.
‘We pushed Australia and New Zealand hard these past few weeks. Obviously we’re disappointed we didn’t finish well. We have to up the tempo against the South Africans this week, especially in the second half.’
Galtland was reminded that results are the measure of success, and that Wales cannot be viewed as particularly successful considering their record against the major teams in the past six years.
The Wales coach then responded saying the Dragons would be a very different prospect at the 2015 World Cup
‘In 2011, we had the players for four or five months beforehand and we went to that World Cup in great shape. We will have a similar time to prepare the team next year, and I’m very excited about that.’
Gatland went on to say that Wales have progressed in recent weeks. He said they are already ahead of where he expected them to be at this point of their buildup to the 2015 World Cup.
He spoke of the game against the Boks as if it was another exercise, almost as if the performance and effort should be the measure of success rather than the result.
‘I’m expecting a structured game from South Africa, and lots of kicking. We have to deal with that pressure.
‘It’s been clear, especially in the recent game against New Zealand, that teams are not hurting us with ball in hand. They’re hurting us when they kick in behind us.’
Gatland did admit there was disappointment following Wales’ failure to finish in recent games against southern hemisphere opposition. He said he expects the Wales bench to make a greater impact in the final quarter of the coming Test.
Wales captain Sam Warburton agreed, although he sounded more hopeful than convinced when asked whether the Dragons would end their losing streak against the Boks this Saturday.
‘We’ve matched these teams physically, and often it’s been the tiny differences, the small decisions at the end that have decided the game,’ Warburton said. ‘We work too hard to keep on losing. It [a win] is going to happen one day. And we are certainly up for this game against the Boks.’