Warren Gatland – hailed by an influential English newspaper as the best rugby coach of his generation – has talked about his desire to beat the All Blacks for the first time in his final game as Wales coach.
Wales’ World Cup title dream ended on Sunday in a 19-16 semifinal defeat to South Africa in a turgid tussle in Yokohama and now Gatland is searching for his first win over the All Blacks after 11 consecutive defeats,.
Gatland was later rated as “undoubtedly Wales’ greatest-ever coach and probably the greatest international coach of this generation” by The Times newspaper, which noted Wales were 10th in the world when Gatland took over after the 2007 World Cup.
The former All Blacks hooker has guided Wales to four Six Nations titles in a 12-year coaching tenure and coached the British and Irish Lions to a series win in Australia and a drawn series with the All Blacks.
Steve James, writing in The Times, said Gatland deserved great credit for guiding an injury-ravaged Welsh team devoid of stars, which “cannot rely on individual brilliance”, into the World Cup semifinals.
Gatland spoke after the semifinal defeat about how difficult it would be to prepare Wales for the bronze medal game against the All Blacks on Friday with a “five-day turnaround”.
He said the game against the All Blacks would be “monumental”.
“As a coach, it’s the only team I haven’t beaten with Wales. It would be nice to be able to achieve that.
“Then I’ll look with some excitement at the challenges ahead for me, going back to coach in New Zealand with the Chiefs.
“Then I’ll be back in 12 months or so with the Lions to maybe get some revenge on South Africa.”
Gatland said the playoff would be “pretty challenging”.
“The All Blacks are probably hurting as much as we are at the moment.
“The third and fourth play-off is a tough game to play but you have to give it the respect it deserves.
“Go out there and do the best you can to try and win it.
Gatland said Wales were “really disappointed not to be in the final”, but should still “be proud of ourselves”.
“My first game in charge was against England and the dream was for it to be my last game, but it’s not to be.
“This is a great group of players that we’ve been involved with, and coaches. We need to recover well over the next couple of days and start preparing for the All Blacks.
“Robin McBryde [Wales forwards coach] said in the changing room afterwards, after all the hard work we’ve done and what this group of players and coaches have achieved, Friday will be our last time together.
“So we’re going to make sure we enjoy this week.”
Wales are likely to be without tighthead prop Tomas Francis, who suffered a shoulder injury against the Springboks. Wing George North also hobbled off with a hamstring strain.
They join a long casualty list, including British and Irish Lions fullback Liam Williams – Wales’ most influential attacking player – and hamstrung No 8 Josh Navidi, who both missed the semifinal.
Kiwi midfielder Hadleigh Parkes has been playing with a fractured hand and injured shoulder while New Zealand playmaker Gareth Anscombe and Lions No 8 Taulupe Faletau were ruled out of the entire tournament.
Gatland, however, insisted Wales were not using injuries as an excuse for not making the final.
“You don’t like to see a player get injured but you have to have that trust and faith in every player in the 31 that they can do a job.
“We’ll look closely at players in the next few days and see how they pull up ahead of the game against the All Blacks. We have to think about whether we make a few changes and give some players a rest with a five-day turnaround.”
This content was originally published here.