Gatland dismisses external pressure


Published: Thursday 27th November 2014 by The News Editor

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Warren Gatland believes “you are always under pressure in sport” as he prepares for Wales’ latest bid at ending a dismal losing sequence against the southern hemisphere heavyweights.

Wales host South Africa on Saturday, having suffered 22 successive defeats at the hands of the Springboks, world champions New Zealand and Australia.

That barren run led to Wales’ head coach being asked on television in his post-match interview following the 34-16 All Blacks reversal five days ago about if he felt under pressure.

Gatland, though, has dismissed subsequent media reports which claimed a formal complaint had been made to the BBC by the Welsh Rugby Union.

“You are always under pressure in sport,” he said, after naming a team showing three changes to face the Springboks.

“As a group, it’s more about the pressure you put on yourselves as much as anything, rather than the external pressure.

“With regard to the autumn, it isn’t a competition. For us, it’s about using the autumn to play against the best teams in the world, who have come off really strong campaigns, to prepare for the Six Nations and for the World Cup.

“There wasn’t any complaint made to the BBC.

“What was said afterwards was that given that was an unbelievable Test match (against New Zealand) and we pushed the All Blacks for 69 minutes and played some great rugby and were very proud of the way we performed and played, I suppose – and it’s nothing that I had said – people within our camp felt that was an unfair question.

“I’ve never minded (people) asking hard questions.

“Sometimes you get dumb questions, but hard questions are something I’ve never worried about. I pride myself on always telling the truth and giving an opinion.

“People don’t always agree with me 100 per cent, but that’s the way I’ve always been. Hard questions have never been an issue with me.”

Wales will be without wing George North this weekend after suffered a blow to his head during the New Zealand game, with Scarlets back Liam Williams replacing him in the number 11 shirt.

Two switches up front see starts for prop Gethin Jenkins, who wins his 110th cap, and hooker Scott Baldwin. Jenkins takes over from Paul James, while Baldwin replaces Richard Hibbard.

Both James and Hibbard have returned to their respective Aviva Premiership clubs Bath and Gloucester. They are unavailable for Wales duty as Saturday’s game falls outside the International Rugby Board autumn Test window.

North’s absence was widely expected, and it sees a start for Williams, who has been among Wales’ most impressive performers during the current autumn campaign.

It also means he faces South Africa five months after he was heavily involved in late drama during Wales’ second Test defeat against the Springboks in Nelspruit.

Wales led throughout the game, but South Africa gained a decisive penalty try two minutes from time after Williams was ruled to have tackled an opponent by leading with his shoulder.

The Springboks’ 31-30 success was rough justice on Wales, yet it gave South Africa a 16th successive victory in the fixture since suffering a Millennium Stadium defeat 15 years ago.

“I stressed at the start of the (autumn) campaign we were looking at the long term,” Gatland added.

“We said we were going to look at things differently in the autumn, focus on certain areas and there was a conditioning focus to start the campaign.

“We might look at the same thing for the Six Nations, because where we are going to be judged on is our performance in the World Cup next year. Our whole focus in on making sure we get out of that pool at the World Cup.

“I think we are ahead of schedule, looking back to where we were in 2010 before 2011 (and the World Cup that year).

“I have always stressed as an international coach that the hardest thing about coaching an international team is the (limited) time you have with players. You get them for a short period and you lose them.

“If I look back on 2011, having that four or five months together, the amount of detail and work we were able to do as a coaching team and the way we prepared for that year’s World Cup, what I’m excited about is the future and the next six months, the time we will have together with the players.”

Published: Thursday 27th November 2014 by The News Editor

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