Gat­land ‘has to fin­ish on a high with us’

Tom Cary

The Daily Telegraph - Sport - - Rugby World Cup -

in Beppu

Ev­ery Wales player at the World Cup – apart from cap­tain Alun Wyn Jones – made their de­but un­der War­ren Gat­land and the camp is de­ter­mined to re­pay their de­part­ing head coach in the quar­ter-fi­nal against France on Sun­day.

With Gat­land leav­ing Wales at the end of the tour­na­ment af­ter a hugely suc­cess­ful 11-year reign, the Oita clash with Les Bleus could be his last game in charge. The men around the 56-year-old, how­ever, be­lieve the New Zealan­der can take them deeper into the knock­out stages.

“War­ren has been around for a long time,” said Wales flanker Josh Na­vidi. “He’s ex­pe­ri­enced. He’ll have us ready for France. He gives us con­fi­dence be­cause we know he’s been there and done it. We want the coaches to fin­ish on a high and to have the send-off they de­serve.

“War­ren’s legacy speaks for it­self and what we’ve achieved as a na­tion from the start of his time to where we are now is amaz­ing.”

Gat­land’s teams have de­liv­ered on the big stage in the past and Wales are firm favourites to main­tain their im­pres­sive re­cent run against France, hav­ing won seven of the sides’ past eight games.

At his two pre­vi­ous World Cups, Gat­land has led Wales to a semi-fi­nal and quar­ter-fi­nal. He is set to field a full-strength side against France.

Hadleigh Parkes missed train­ing for the se­cond straight day in Beppu yesterday as the cen­tre con­tin­ues to nurse a sore shoul­der. His mid­field part­ner Jonathan Davies trained fully. His left leg was heav­ily strapped, but Tele­graph Sport un­der­stands both men – plus fel­low backs Dan Big­gar, Ge­orge North and Josh Adams – will be fit to start.

Gat­land’s main se­lec­tion dilemma is who to name in the back row along­side Na­vidi and Justin Tipuric, with Aaron Wain­wright and Ross Moriarty the op­tions. “Ev­ery­one seems OK and it’s a huge week for us,” said Wales skills coach Neil Jenk­ins. “We ei­ther turn up or we are go­ing home. It will be a very tough game and a very tight one. It’s knock­out rugby now and it does not get much big­ger.

“War­ren is not just an in­cred­i­ble coach, he is an in­cred­i­ble per­son as well. He brings so much to this en­vi­ron­ment it’s un­be­liev­able. It will be in­cred­i­bly sad to see him go, but it would be nice if we could give our­selves an­other fort­night in Japan.”

France re­main hope­ful scrumhalf An­toine Dupont will play af­ter he re­turned to train­ing fol­low­ing a back in­jury. Coach Jacques Brunel is still sweat­ing on wing Damian Pe­naud, who had been com­plain­ing of hip pain but will train today.

Wales and France both name their teams to­mor­row. “There has only been one score in it in the last eight games we have played against France,” said Wales hooker Ken Owens. “We have con­fi­dence, but it’s not ar­ro­gance as we know how good a team the French are. They have proved that against us in the past.”

When Joe Sch­midt took over from De­clan Kid­ney as Ire­land head coach in the au­tumn of 2013, they were still reel­ing from a record 60-0 thrash­ing handed out by the All Blacks the pre­vi­ous sum­mer. It is just one mea­sure of the ex­tra­or­di­nary job that Sch­midt has done that, as he pre­pares his team for what could be his fi­nal match in charge against the same op­po­si­tion in Tokyo on Satur­day, they have won two of their past three Tests against New Zealand.

There can be no debate that the 54-year-old is the great­est coach in Ir­ish rugby history. Sch­midt’s im­pact – four ti­tles in as many years with Le­in­ster, three Six Na­tions crowns in six years (in­clud­ing win­ning the Grand Slam at Twick­en­ham last year) with Ire­land, a com­plete over­haul of the pro­vin­cial sys­tem to­gether with Ir­ish Rugby Football Union per­for­mance direc­tor David Nu­ci­fora – is well doc­u­mented. He has raised a coun­try’s ex­pec­ta­tions; com­pletely changed their mind­set.

But what drives Sch­midt? What drives the man driv­ing Ir­ish rugby? That is less well known.

Sch­midt speaks very lit­tle about his up­bring­ing in Woodville, near Palmerston North. One of eight chil­dren, he was ac­tu­ally born in Kawakawa, North­land, mov­ing to Woodville later. This is Smal­lville, even by New Zealand stan­dards. Af­ter win­ning the first of his three Six Na­tions ti­tles, he joked that it was “pretty hard [to imag­ine] when you’re born in Kawakawa, 1,400 peo­ple and you’re shifted to the me­trop­o­lis of Woodville – 1,600 peo­ple. It’s huge.”

Rugby was al­ways a po­ten­tial escape route, and Sch­midt des­per­ately wanted to make it as a player. But he was too small. Not that he ac­cepted it. Former All Blacks scrum-half Mark Don­ald­son, who coached Sch­midt at pro­vin­cial club Manawatu, said he tried to break it to Sch­midt as gen­tly as he could that he was not go­ing to cut it.

“I sort of laughed and said, ‘Look mate, you are re­ally do­ing well to do what you do in club footy but you just won’t make my cut’. He went away to the gym – no one was go­ing to the gym in those days – and put

Great ex­pec­ta­tions: Joe Sch­midt has raised the stan­dard of Ir­ish rugby

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.