Gatland keeps believing

Published: Sunday 23rd November 2014 by The News Editor

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Warren Gatland insisted Wales can still shed the tag of nearly men after once again coming up just short against New Zealand.

Wales held a 16-15 lead over the world champions with 11 minutes remaining at the Millennium Stadium but the hope of a first victory against the All Blacks in 61 years was destroyed in the final stages.

The All Blacks blitzed Wales with three late tries to win 34-16 and leave Gatland’s men with the same sinking feeling against southern hemisphere opposition.

“It is disappointing but we have to keep working hard to try and rectify that,” Gatland said.

“There are some critical moments we have to learn from when we come under a bit of pressure.

“We have grasped every opportunity to try and play New Zealand, South Africa and Australia because that is the way we get better.

“Playing in that sort of hot atmosphere and intensity of international rugby that’s the way these players will continually improve and getting exposed to that kind of pressure against the best teams in the world.

“That’s all we can hopefully look to do and learn from those experiences and be smarter next time.”

Wales were edged out by Australia in Cardiff two weeks ago and, having scraped past 14-man Fiji a week ago, close their autumn campaign against South Africa next weekend.

South Africa have only lost once to Wales in their history – at the Millennium Stadium in 1999 – but Gatland insists plenty of self-belief remains in the camp ahead of the Springboks’ visit.

“I don’t think it will be (a task to lift the players),” Gatland said.

“Shaun Edwards (defence coach) spoke to the players in the changing room afterwards and asked that question.

“The response was that if we produce that same level of intensity and commitment we are good enough to win next week.

“It was great the players responded in that manner and to make sure we are capable of putting South Africa under the same sort of pressure.

“It’s not about belief, sometimes it is about getting across the line. The first time you do that the second time it becomes easier, and when we get over that line that is what will create that belief and composure to finish a game off.”

But Gatland did admit that Wales were not used to playing at the same intensity and tempo as their New Zealand counterparts.

“We look at all the GPS numbers and stuff and we are not used to playing at the very edge,” Gatland said.

“Sometimes our players are coming to us not quite with the same numbers perhaps, so we have to try and replicate that in training to get them up to the level they are going to expect to face against the southern hemisphere teams.

“New Zealand have been together for the last nine weeks on the road but there were periods where we rattled them and they looked rattled.

“We put them under some pressure and they came out the other end – and that’s why they are the best team in the world.”

New Zealand coach Steve Hansen dismissed Gatland’s view that the All Blacks had been rattled as they closed yet another triumphant year on a winning note.

“It’s called a Test match because it’s a test of your physical and mental attributes,” Hansen said.

“When you play a good side you expect to be tested for longer than 50 minutes. I don’t know about being rattled but we were certainly tested.

“The effort they put in for that 65 minutes was very, very good and defensively they worked hard.

“To put us under the pressure they did they had to work hard, but at some point you pay a price for that.

“But it was the best defensive performance against us this year, really intense.”

Hansen said the All Blacks spoke at length during half-time as to what was needed to continue their winning hold over Wales with the scores tied 3-3 at the break.

“They put us under pressure but we eventually worked out if they’re doing this then we’re doing that and our kicking game came into it,” Hansen said.

“The big thing in our attacking game was that we didn’t hold onto the ball when we were put under pressure.

“If we had held onto the ball we would have cracked them earlier because they would have had to work harder.

“But 10 minutes after half-time you could see it swing round to us and we had to make sure we took the opportunities that arose.

“We had to be composed because you’re asking a team to have that energy for the whole game and I think that’s just impossible.

“I don’t think fitness is their problem, they just had to defend for long periods of the game and that’s a lot harder than attacking for long periods.”

Published: Sunday 23rd November 2014 by The News Editor

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