Steve Hansen lauded the leadership of Kieran Read after New Zealand sent their outgoing coach and captain on their way with a 40-17 demolition of Wales in the Rugby World Cup bronze match.

The All Blacks showed little mercy as they responded to their semi-final defeat to England in style on Friday, dispatching Warren Gatland's Six Nations champions with ease to claim third place.

Ben Smith – also playing in his final Test – starred with two tries as the deposed world champions cruised in Tokyo.

Read, as he has throughout his glorious spell as captaincy, led the charge and Hansen, who has won 93 of his 107 Tests as All Blacks coach, singled out the 34-year-old as being the key factor in New Zealand's impressive response.

"Reado led really, really well this week. He's a great leader but I think this week, he needs to take a bow because he was hurting probably more than most," Hansen told a news conference.

"We saw that earlier in the week, but he put his own personal feelings to the side and knew this team had to get up.

"You sit there and see the performance they put in and you can be nothing but proud of it and I'm sure there are lots of New Zealanders and All Blacks fans all over the world that will be proud of what they did today."

Read insisted he was always going to savour his final appearance in the famous black jersey, even though New Zealand's failure to win an unprecedented third successive World Cup means the end to his international career is a bittersweet one.

"It's been a great day. I've tried to really make sure I stay in the moment and enjoy this day," said Read, who will continue his career in Japan with Toyota Verblitz.

"My emotions at the start of the week, I was able to get them all out of there, so today was about the process, trying to play well and soak it up and enjoy the occasion.

"I just love playing with this team and for my family to come out there at the end and share this special moment, it was great and I'll hold these memories for a long time.

"I look back at this World Cup and it'll take me a little bit of time to get over, but in the end I'll come back with some fond memories and remember today."

Warren Gatland said it would break his heart if Wales go "back into the doldrums" after his long reign ended with a 40-17 defeat to New Zealand in the Rugby World Cup bronze final.

Gatland will return to his native New Zealand to take charge of the Chiefs after spending 12 years as head coach of the Six Nations Grand Slam champions.

But it was the All Blacks who gave their own outgoing head coach, Steve Hansen, a victory in his final match at the helm in the third-place play-off at Tokyo Stadium on Friday.

Gatland departs as Wales' greatest coach, and the British and Irish Lions boss is desperate for his replacement Wayne Pivac to be successful in a new era.

Asked about his emotions during his Wales swansong, Gatland said: "It's something I'd prepared myself for and then you start thinking about the next challenges in life.

"I really hope, for what we have achieved in the last 10 or 12 years, we have earned respect and put some respect back into Wales as an international team and the new coaches come in and continue to build on that.

"Because I think, [with] what we've achieved, it would break my heart if Wales went back into the doldrums."

He added: "There is an opportunity for the new group to come in and build on what we've created and improve on that.

"You know how tough it is to win a Six Nations. It's not to be greedy and expect to win it every year, but it's going and performing well in the Six Nations and continuing to get a few Six Nations titles along the way and make sure we are as competitive as we can be against the other top nations.

"I think we have been, and I want Wales to continue to build on that."

Gatland felt the challenge of facing the All Blacks just five days after a semi-final loss to South Africa was a lot to ask for his injury-hit squad.

"It was obvious to me, just watching the first half, that five-day turnaround after having played South Africa - and losing four players in that game - some players definitely struggled with the quick turnaround." said the 56-year-old.

"But I thought the bench gave us impetus when they came on, it was good and I'm pleased with that. But no complaints about the result, I thought the All Blacks deserved to win."

Steve Hansen was left to rue "one bad day" but expressed his pride after his New Zealand reign ended with a 40-17 drubbing of Wales in the Rugby World Cup bronze final.

The All Blacks scored six tries in an entertaining third-place play-off at Tokyo Stadium on Friday after a week of licking their wounds following a semi-final defeat to England.

Ben Smith claimed a first-half double and had another try ruled out in his final Test, while Ryan Crotty likewise touched down in his New Zealand swansong.

Captain Kieran Read was also among several All Blacks playing their last internationals at the end of Hansen's glorious reign, and the head coach was impressed with the character shown by his side six days after they were dethroned.

"It was just important we came back and honoured the jersey and our fans and get over the disappointment of last week." said Hansen, who has spent 15 years on the New Zealand coaching staff.

"It was a tough old game for both sides and I want to congratulate Wales because they'll be feeling a little bad at the moment.

"All tournament, we've had great defence and played pretty good footy all the way through. One bad day, you lose a game and you miss out, that is what knockout football is about. But I'm really proud of the boys today."

Man of the match Brodie Retallick said the two-time defending champions were desperate to sign off by showing what they are capable of.

"After last week, we wanted to come back and put on a performance we could be proud of and, for all of our supporters, we're thankful to come out with the win." said the lock.

"We had to use that as motivation to come and do what we did tonight. It took a great effort and I'm really proud of what we did tonight."

Ben Smith marked his swansong with a double as New Zealand ended the Steve Hansen era by hammering Wales 40-17 in an entertaining Rugby World Cup third-place play-off.

The All Blacks had been licking their wounds since England shattered their bid to lift the Webb Ellis Cup for an unprecedented third successive time last weekend and responded like champions at Tokyo Stadium on Friday.

Smith, recalled for one final Test before joining Top 14 side Pau, touched down twice in a frantic first half following scores from Joe Moody and Beauden Barrett as the All Blacks turned on the style.

Ryan Crotty, also donning the famous jersey for the last time along with legendary captain Kieran Read, crossed following the interval after the lively Smith had a third ruled out.

Richie Mo'unga claimed New Zealand's sixth try of the night late on to take his points tally to 13 and Read was inspirational in his farewell Test as the two-time defending champions fittingly finished Hansen's glorious reign with a victory

Hallam Amos crossed in the first half and Josh Adams took his tournament-leading try-scoring tally to seven, but the clinical All Blacks sealed a 31rd win in a row over injury-hit Wales in Warren Gatland's last game in charge.

The holders had no answer to a blistering start from England last weekend, but they began on the front foot six days later and Moody took a one-handed pass from a charging Brodie Retallick to go over five minutes in.

Barrett sprinted under the posts all too easily after Aaron Smith's no-look pass left a sluggish Wales defence flat-footed and Mo'unga ​– who missed an early penalty – converted for the second time.

Wales clicked into a gear and Amos showed a sharp turn of foot to finish superbly after a sustained spell of pressure and a Rhys Patchell penalty reduced the deficit to four points.

The Grand Slam winners continued to look vulnerable at the other end, though, and Ben Smith burst down the middle and somehow evaded three tackles and dot down.

The 33-year-old flyer finished clinically again on the stroke of half-time after taking an exceptional whipped pass from his mercurial namesake Aaron, Mo'unga adding the extras expertly from the touchline.

Sonny Bill Williams, also playing what is expected to be his last match for his country, set up the onrushing Crotty for a fifth All Blacks try after Ben Smith was denied a hat-trick due to a knock-on.

The lively Adams dived over from close range at the other end after captain Alun Wyn Jones came off to a standing ovation in what is almost certainly his final World Cup appearance.

New Zealand were not at their fluent best in the second half, but Mo'unga had the final say by crashing over four minutes from time to round off an emphatic win.

Steve Hansen has urged his New Zealand side to show their character when they take on Wales in the Rugby World Cup bronze match.

The All Blacks saw their hopes of retaining their title dashed by England in the last four, with Eddie Jones' side recording an impressive 19-7 victory in Yokohama.

While England face South Africa in the final on Saturday, New Zealand's focus is on Wales, with Warren Gatland's Six Nations champions their opponents in Friday's contest to decide who takes third place at this year's tournament in Japan.

It will mark the final matches in charge of their respective teams for both Gatland and Hansen - and the outgoing All Blacks coach is determined to show his squad can come back from a rare defeat and end on a high.

"It's about resetting the button and making sure that we go and have a performance that not only we can be proud of, but every New Zealander around the world and every fan of the All Blacks," Hansen told a news conference.

"The most important thing we can do is play at the highest standard we can play, coach to the highest standard you can coach, or be the best manager you can be.

"Doing that, we show not only ourselves and our team-mates but also our country that we've got some character.

"The most important thing we can do now is show that if your character's tested, you can stand up to it.

"That's the greatest success we can take out of this tournament, the greatest success we can show young people in New Zealand who are aspiring All Blacks or aspiring to be anything. You've got to have character."

Rugby World Cup finalists England and South Africa have been joined by New Zealand, Wales and Japan in World Rugby's Team of the Year nominations for 2019.

All four teams who reached the semi-finals of the showpiece tournament in Japan have been rewarded for their efforts, with the respective coaches also up for the Coach of the Year award.

Eddie Jones, Rassie Erasmus, Steve Hansen and Warren Gatland are on the list, along with Jamie Joseph, who guided Japan to their first-ever World Cup knockout stage.

The hosts were eventually defeated by South Africa, with Erasmus then guiding Rugby Championship winners the Springboks to a 19-16 win over Wales, who won the Six Nations Grand Slam under outgoing coach Gatland.

New Zealand and Hansen are both in the running, despite the All Blacks seeing their long reigns both at the top of the rankings and as world champions ended.

Ireland dominated the 2018 awards, winning the Team of the Year accolade as coach Joe Schmidt and player Johnny Sexton were recognised for their individual efforts.

Their failure to advance beyond the World Cup quarter-finals, beaten by New Zealand, means neither the team nor Schmidt are nominated this time.

The 2019 Player of the Year nominations are still to be announced, before the awards are handed out in Tokyo on Sunday.

Earlier in the week, World Rugby announced Joe Cokanasiga (England), Herschel Jantjies (South Africa) and Romain Ntamack (France) are up for the Breakthrough Player of the Year gong.

Rugby World Cup scores from Charles Ollivon (France), TJ Perenara (New Zealand) and Cobus Reinach (South Africa) are bidding alongside Italy captain Sergio Parisse's Test effort for the Try of the Year.

Retiring captain Kieran Read says New Zealand will pick themselves up for what promises to be an emotional Rugby World Cup third-place play-off with injury-hit Wales.

The All Blacks' quest to lift the Webb Ellis Cup for an unprecedented third time in a row was ended by an inspired England semi-final performance at International Stadium Yokohama last Saturday.

New Zealand were very much second best in a 19-7 defeat which denied Read the opportunity to end his Test career – and head coach Steve Hansen's glorious long reign – by making history.

Dane Coles, Ryan Crotty, Ben Smith, Matt Todd and Sonny Bill Williams are also set to pull on an All Blacks shirt for the last time in a bronze-medal match in Tokyo on Friday rather than a final 24 hours later.

Read says the two-time defending champions are still reeling from being dethroned, but are determined to finish on a high note and spoil compatriot Warren Gatland's last match in charge of Wales.

"It's been a rollercoaster over the last few days. It's a pleasure to play in this team and I've loved every minute I've had," said the back-row, who will lead out a side including seven changes.

"Post the game [against England], after a while it's like I might as well enjoy my time here, it's my last week to be with the men I call good mates, and I just want to enjoy the time with those blokes.

"It does require a bit of strength, knowing this is a game you didn't want to be in. It's been a weird few days. But we've got a chance to rectify a few things we didn't get right last week, and that in itself is exciting.

"It's not going to change the fact we're going to be hurting for a long time but you can change your mindset for this match and put the effort in."

Gatland made nine changes for his Wales swansong, wing Owen Lane among those to start, and the British and Irish Lions coach said: "It's the last game you want to be involved in, but it's been on the calendar and everyone has known about it.

"I think New Zealand's CEO Steve Tew made a joke to our chief executive Martyn Phillips that both teams should have a boat race and we could settle it that way!"

 

PLAYERS TO WATCH

New Zealand - Rieko Ioane

Ioane will make only his third appearance of what has been a frustrating tournament for the wing. 

The flyer is hard to contain when at his devastating best and Wales will have their hands full trying to keep him quiet.

 

Wales - Owen Lane

Lane was only called up to the squad last week as a replacement for the injured Josh Navidi.

The 21-year-old, who can also operate as a centre, has been billed as a future star and will get the chance to live up to the hype against the two-time defending champions.

 

KEY OPTA FACTS 

- New Zealand have won 31 of their 34 Test meetings with Wales, their three defeats coming in the first four clashes between the sides - the most recent of which coming way back in 1953.

- The All Blacks have won their last 30 matches against Wales, the longest winning run any side has ever held over a tier one nation in Test history.

- Wales have played in a third-place play-off on two previous occasions; beating Australia in 1987 but losing to the Wallabies in 2011.

- New Zealand have participated for bronze on three occasions; winning against Scotland in 1991 and France in 2003, but losing to the Springboks in 1999. 

- Wales averaged just 1.6 metres per carry in their semi-final against South Africa, the lowest average gain ever by any side in a World Cup match.

Sean Fitzpatrick says he feels sorry for Kieran Read as he prepares to end his New Zealand career in a bronze match rather than chasing a third straight Rugby World Cup title.

All Blacks captain Read looked to be leading his side towards another World Cup triumph until the two-time defending champions met a determined England outfit in the semi-finals.

New Zealand were beaten comfortably by Eddie Jones' inspired team and Read, who previously announced his decision to retire after the tournament, is now bowing out against Wales in a third-place play-off.

Former All Black Fitzpatrick wished the 34-year-old had been able to enjoy a more fitting send-off but insisted he could still only be considered a true great.

"He's been an outstanding All Black captain, a phenomenal player, one of the great number eights in world rugby for many, many years," Fitzpatrick said, speaking courtesy of Laureus.

"He's had a long career. It's his third World Cup. I feel sorry for him that he finished on that note, but he's got another opportunity hopefully this week against Wales.

"He's one of the greats. He loves the All Black jersey and plays with a real passion. I wish him well with whatever he does. He'll go down as one of our great All Blacks."

Coach Steve Hansen will also depart after Friday's meeting with Wales, but Fitzpatrick hopes his staff - including assistant and potential replacement Ian Foster - will not pay the price for the England defeat.

Fitzpatrick believes coaches such as Foster have proven their worth regardless of a one-off loss.

"They'll go through a process [to appoint a coach]," Fitzpatrick said. "They've got people in line obviously already - I'd imagine they've done quite a bit of work on that.

"I don't think the game on Saturday would be a defining factor in saying, if it was going to be [an appointment] from within, we must change that. I don't agree with that.

"Because this group of coaches that are staying on after Hansen goes have done a brilliant job. I'm so proud as a past All Black. The past four-year cycle, they couldn't have done any more.

"They just came up against a team that dominated. I don't think that should have a real bearing on who the next All Blacks coach is."

Fitzpatrick now hopes the pain of losing to England can serve New Zealand well going forward.

"Everyone in that team hasn't experienced that feeling, so it's a big change," he added. "They'll learn from that.

"With how commanding the defeat was to England, although it's not easy to accept, they were better than us. We've got to take it on the chin and move on. We were outplayed and they [the players] know that.

"The way we did it yesterday is not enough to win tomorrow - that's been our philosophy all the way along as All Blacks. Prepare as if you're number two, never think you're good enough. At the moment, we're not number one."

Wales head coach Warren Gatland has made nine changes for his final match in charge against New Zealand in the Rugby World Cup third-place play-off.

Friday's bronze medal match at Tokyo Stadium in Chofu will bring down the curtain on Gatland's 12-year stint at the helm of Wales.

New Zealander Gatland will coach the British and Irish Lions in South Africa in 2021, while he has also signed on to lead Super Rugby outfit the Chiefs on a four-year deal.

Injuries mean Tomas Francis (shoulder), George North (hamstring), Aaron Wainwright (hamstring) and Leigh Halfpenny (concussion) will sit out the clash with the All Blacks, having started in the semi-final loss to South Africa.

Owen Lane, Nicky Smith and James Davis come into the starting XV, Hallam Amos takes over from Halfpenny at full-back, while Adam Beard returns to partner captain Alun Wyn Jones.

There is also an opportunity for Tomos Williams and Rhys Patchell to form a new half-back partnership for Wales, as Owen Watkin features alongside Jonathan Davies against the dethroned world champions.

 

Wales: Hallam Amos, Owen Lane, Jonathan Davies, Owen Watkin, Josh Adams, Rhys Patchell, Tomos Williams; Nicky Smith, Ken Owens, Dillon Lewis, Adam Beard, Alun Wyn Jones, Justin Tipuric, James Davies, Ross Moriarty.

Replacements: Elliot Dee, Rhys Carre, Wyn Jones, Jake Ball, Aaron Shingler, Gareth Davies, David Biggar, Hadleigh Parkes.

A smiling Eddie Jones hit back at Warren Gatland in typically mischievous fashion after the outgoing Wales coach appeared to question whether England would "turn up" in the Rugby World Cup final.

England produced a sensational performance on Saturday to dethrone two-time defending champions New Zealand, triumphing 19-7 as the likes of Maro Itoje, Sam Underhill and George Ford excelled.

Jones' side will face South Africa in a repeat of the 2007 final, the Springboks having edged out Wales 19-16 in Sunday's second last-four contest to deny Gatland a triumphant send-off.

Following Wales' loss, Gatland said: "We have seen in previous World Cups that teams sometimes play their final in semi-finals and don’t always turn up for a final. So it will be interesting to see how England are next week."

When those comments were put to Jones on Monday, the Australian broke into a grin and replied: "Well, guys, can you just send my best wishes to Warren to make sure he enjoys the third and fourth place play-off."

Jones was able to deliver positive injury updates on Jonny May and skipper Owen Farrell. May was a doubt for the semi-final against the All Blacks due to a hamstring injury and limped off early in the second half, while Farrell relinquished kicking duties to Ford after taking a knock in the opening 40.

"We had a walk through this morning and we had to tell Jonny to slow down a bit," Jones said of May. "He is probably in better condition than he was last week at this stage. Immeasurably better.

"Owen is a bit sore but he will be fine. We have got a few others carrying bumps and bruises because it was a tough game."

One England player who will not feature in Saturday's final is Willi Heinz. The scrum-half suffered a hamstring injury after coming off the bench against New Zealand and Ben Spencer has been called up in his place.

"It is tough for Willi," said Jones. "He has been a great contributor and a very well-liked member of the squad. He was in tears in the dressing room but he has collected himself and now knows he has another role to play for us and he will fulfil that role really well this week.

"Ben has been in and around the squad consistently for the last couple of years so he knows the game, he knows the players. He is a fit guy and just fits in quite readily. We always said to those guys outside the 31 that they need to be ready, and he is ready to go."

New Zealand Rugby (NZR) CEO Steve Tew said it would be "impossible" for Warren Gatland to coach the All Blacks and British and Irish Lions as the Wales boss prepares to vacate his role following the Rugby World Cup.

All Blacks coach Steve Hansen is set to step down after Friday's third-place match against Wales in Tokyo after the two-time defending world champions were stunned by England in the semi-final.

Gatland is also poised to depart Wales following 12 years in charge as he prepares to coach the Lions in South Africa in 2021, while he has also signed on to lead Super Rugby outfit the Chiefs on a four-year deal.

Tew, who will also vacate his position at the end of the year, poured cold water on the prospect of the 56-year-old New Zealander replacing Hansen.

"I don't know that he is going to apply for the job or not," Tew told New Zealand's Radio Sport on Monday. "He knows what our process is. He's made those decisions already, what he has in his contracts in terms of what he's going to do is entirely up to him.

"I haven't actually contemplated this but I think to coach the All Blacks and the Lions in a four-year period would be impossible but that would be a call that he has made or that he will have to make."

Tew added: "Nothing has changed from the original process, with the semi-final result no need to accelerate the decision, it is important that we focus on that, win or lose this was always the process."

Swansea City defender Joe Rodon requires surgery on a fresh ankle injury and will miss Wales' crucial Euro 2020 qualifiers with Azerbaijan and Hungary in November.

The 22-year-old has started three of Wales' six qualifiers, including last month's double-header with Slovakia and Croatia.

Rodon injured his ankle this month but sustained a new tendon issue in Swansea's 3-0 defeat to Brentford on Tuesday, ruling him out of action for "a few months".

Swansea boss Steve Cooper confirmed the lay-off after Sunday's 1-0 victory over Cardiff City.

"Joe picked up a fresh injury on Tuesday. He's going to need an operation next week," Cooper said at his post-match news conference. 

"We were worried because of the knock on the ankle. But it's a new injury that's ruled him out for a few months. 

"He's got a tendon injury that rules him out of the Wales games too. He was close to tears. But he stood by the side of the team and didn't leave us for one minute."

Wales face Azerbaijan in Baku on November 16 and Hungary in Cardiff three days later.

Ryan Giggs' men are fourth in Group E ahead of their final two fixtures, four points adrift of second-place Hungary with a game in hand.

Rassie Erasmus believes the hard lessons of defeat South Africa learned against Wales were central to their gruelling Rugby World Cup semi-final triumph.

Handre Pollard's perfect goalkicking performance inspired the Springboks to a tense 19-16 victory on Saturday, ending a run of four consecutive losses to Warren Gatland's men.

Far from preying on his players' minds, Erasmus felt those experiences were part of the reason South Africa got over the line in Yokohama.

"Playing against them four times and knowing that they know how to close out games, we've learned our lessons," he told a post-match news conference.

"Especially the Washington Test match [a 22-20 loss in the United States capital last year], we were ahead in the last few minutes and the way they clawed back and won… we certainly learned some lessons there.

"And the way they won the Six Nations, we certainly see they're a team that strangles the life out of the opposition. We expected exactly that and that's what we received the whole game.

"We had to match that the whole game. It probably wasn't the best spectacle to watch and I guess the boys stuck to their guns and adapted to that."

South Africa's recent record against final opponents England offers greater reasons for optimism. Boks won a three-match home series in 2018 2-1 before slipping to a 12-11 loss at Twickenham last November and also won the 2007 World Cup final 15-6 in Paris.

Nevertheless, Erasmus knows England represent a formidable prospect if they are in the mood they were in as they scythed through New Zealand in this weekend's other semi-final.

"We've played England four times in the last 18 months, it's 2-2," he said.

"We're accustomed with the way they play. They're obviously much better than when we last played them and you could see it the way they dismantled New Zealand.

"We think we're in with a chance. I'm not 100 per cent sure that a World Cup final is going to be won by an expansive game plan with wonderful tries. It might be, I might be wrong. I think we'll go the grind-it-out route."

If that hints the tactical preparations are already largely taken care of, a weight of responsibility remains for whoever is responsible for Erasmus' laundry.

"Every time since I started coaching, when I lose a match, I change my clothing," he chuckled when the superstition surrounding a lucky white shirt that has been omnipresent on the road to the final was brought up.

"Last year I had to change quite a lot of clothing because we lost quite a lot. This year I only had to change it once.

"I'm hoping I can wear this until the end of the final. This is my lucky shirt so far."

Warren Gatland believes South Africa have a very good chance of beating England in the Rugby World Cup final but warned the Springboks might need a more expansive approach to the one that saw off Wales 19-16.

An immaculate goalkicking performance from Handre Pollard saw the Boks edge a war of attrition in Sunday's semi-final to book a showdown with England, who stunned reigning champions New Zealand in somewhat contrasting style on Saturday.

Gatland, who will step down after 12 years in charge of Wales after the third-place match against the All Blacks, had no qualms over South Africa's tactics, where box kicks from Pollard and tenacious scrum-half Faf de Klerk were to the fore.

"They've got the physicality to match England, although I thought England were outstanding against the All Blacks. They've got a very good chance," he told a news conference after Damian de Allende and Josh Adams ran in a try apiece for their respective sides.

"They need to be a bit more expansive in terms of the way they want to play. They had a pretty simple game plan against us: using De Allende in terms of from the scrums and a lot of box-kicking from De Klerk and Pollard as well.

"It was very effective and for them it was about doing everything they could to make the final."

After four consecutive wins against South Africa, Gatland expected another close encounter.

Wales were unable to add the distinction of becoming World Cup finalists in a 2019 where they won the Six Nations Grand Slam and briefly stood as the number one side in the world.

Nevertheless, Gatland rejected the suggestion those exertions had taken a decisive toll.

"With 76 minutes on the clock at 16-16 I thought we had a bit of momentum," he said. "We were in their half and it was a big turnover from a breakdown where we haven't kicked the ball.

"From there they've managed to get a penalty from a lineout drive. For me, I felt the longer the game went on we would get an opportunity.

"Those games against South Africa that we've had in the past five or six years have been very similar. We've been in close, tight encounters that could have gone either way and congratulations to South Africa, they're the ones who came out on top."

When Gatland bows out against the country of his birth on Friday, the weight of a glorious era comprising three Grand Slams will be heavy.

"I'm hurting, obviously disappointed but we've still got an opportunity to make a bit of history," said veteran captain Alun Wyn Jones.

"There's no real consolation but we move on and make the most of the next opportunity to put this red jersey on that means so much."

Gatland added: "We're very disappointed but I'm incredibly proud of what we've achieved in this World Cup and what this group of players have done.

"The dream was [to make the final] my last game, but it's not to be. We need to recover over the next couple of days and enjoy it against the All Blacks."

Wales could not have put any more effort into their display against South Africa, according to Warren Gatland, who took pride in his side's over-achievement at the Rugby World Cup.

Handre Pollard's late penalty settled a tense semi-final in Yokohama on Sunday as the Springboks came out on top 19-16 to progress to the final, where they will face England.

Next Saturday's clash will be a rematch of the 2007 final, which South Africa won 15-6, while Wales will face New Zealand in the bronze match on Friday.

Josh Adams' converted try had put Wales level with under 15 minutes remaining, but the Six Nations champions failed to capitalise on some sustained pressure, with Pollard settling the contest with his fourth successful penalty with four minutes left.

Gatland, though, was adamant his side had little else left to give.

"We gave 100 per cent. It's a tough, physical South Africa team, they won the collisions in terms of the carry and stuff, but I thought we were pretty good at times, but they're big men," Gatland, whose tenure will come to an end after the World Cup, told ITV Sport.

"Our guys didn't take a backwards step and I can only be proud of them for that and like I said we stayed in that arm-wrestle for a long time.

"Great credit to South Africa, they played very well, and we probably gave up too many penalties in our own half and that cost us dearly.

"I'm proud of the fact we never gave up and that got us back into the game and we were in the arm-wrestle, but probably three or four penalties during the game, which would cost any team points...

"That's how close and tight these games are. We're disappointed because we worked hard, and a penalty is the difference between the teams.

"We've punched massively above our weight when you consider the playing numbers in Wales. I'm massively proud of what these guys have achieved – they'll keep playing hard and working hard.

"For a long time, it was pretty close and at 16-16 you're dreaming about the points going the other way but congratulations to South Africa and I'm sure it'll be a great final with England."

Gatland's counterpart Rassie Erasmus, meanwhile, believes the Springboks' grit and spirit will ensure they have earned the respect of fans back home and across the world.

"We're in the final of a World Cup. I guess that'll get some respect, but we're only halfway there," he said.

"We play a class England team in the final but we're there, we've got a chance now and we might go all the way, you never know.

"Our group stands together. Nobody cares who gets substituted. We substituted our captain and he takes it on the chin. The guys defended on the try line and those moments count and really help the team gel together and that kind of team spirit can make the nation proud."

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