Wales vs Ireland: Warren Gatland ‘got what he wanted’ despite defeat in World Cup warm-up

Although Gatland expressed his disappointment at the defeat, he admitted that, in terms of his selection decisions, he now had a clearer idea of who will be on the plane to Japan next month

Samuel Lovett
Principality Stadium
Saturday 31 August 2019 17:53
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Warren Gatland tells Wales fans: we can win Rugby World Cup

Warren Gatland has said he “got what he wanted” from WalesWorld Cup warm-up clash with Ireland, despite seeing his side succumb to a 22-17 defeat at the Principality Stadium.

In the first of a double-header against Joe Schmidt’s men ahead of Japan 2019, Wales were beaten by a superior Irish side that hit back hard after the humiliation of their record defeat by England last weekend.

Both Gatland and Schmidt rung the changes for the clash – making 30 between them from their previous fixtures – as they look to add the finishing touches to their World Cup squads.

And although Gatland expressed his disappointment at Saturday’s defeat – Wales’ first loss at home since November 2017 – he admitted that, in terms of his selection decisions, he now had a clearer idea of who will be on the plane to Japan next month.

“We had a few questions answered,” he admitted afterwards. “It was good from that point of view.

“We got what we wanted out of today apart from the victory.

“We’re going back to the hotel tonight to sit down and take a few hours to finalise the squad.

“We’re quite comfortable with 24/25 [players].”

Gatland admitted that there was “half a dozen positions up for debate”, with the Kiwi and his coaching staff set to announce the final squad on Sunday.

Two players under scrutiny are fly-halves Jarrod Evans and Rhys Patchell, with both players competing to provide back-up to Dan Biggar.

Although Evans was given the nod ahead of Patchell against the Irish, it was the latter who impressed after coming on in the second half. His try and two conversions played a crucial part in driving the Welsh fightback after a Jacob Stockdale double and penalty try had put the visitors ahead.

“There was no doubt Rhys came on and did a good job,” Gatland added. “It’s a hell of a lot easier coming on off the bench with no pressure on you. He scored tries, kicked well, so he’s done well. And it’s hard for Jarrod if the team isn’t going as well as it could. So [you’ve] got to put those things into perspective.”

Gatland is also confident that he’ll be taking his strongest-ever squad to a World Cup, having overseen two previous campaigns as head coach of the Welsh national side – both of which ended in disappointment.

When asked if this would be best set of players at a World Cup, he said: “I think so, yes.

“The pleasing thing about these guys is that they showed some great character. They showed what it means to play for Wales. They were disappointed with the first half. They can take a lot of pride out of the fact they didn’t give up, they kept on trying … we were pretty positive towards the end.”

“That team will be a lot better for it.”

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