Warren Gatland expects ‘one hell of a game’ as Wales tackle wounded Australia

By Sports Desk September 22, 2023

Warren Gatland believes there will be degrees of desperation on both sides when Wales tackle Rugby World Cup rivals Australia on Sunday.

Victory for Wales would send them into a fourth successive World Cup quarter-final with one group game to spare.

Australia, meanwhile, know that defeat realistically condemns them to a pool-stage exit for the first time in World Cup history.

“It will be one hell of a game, and that will be down to not just them being desperate, but us being desperate to progress through this pool,” Wales head coach Gatland said.

“There is definitely desperation for us because a loss or no points and the group could potentially come down to points difference.

“That is the last position we want to be in. I think that, when you’ve worked so hard and made as many sacrifices as the coaches and players have made in the past four months, that creates its own desperation.

“Why give yourself a get out of jail card when you don’t need to do that? We are desperate for the right reasons.”

Wales co-captain and hooker Dewi Lake has missed out on a place in Wales’ matchday 23 for the Lyon showdown.

Gatland has named the same team that defeated Fiji 12 days ago, with Ryan Elias starting at hooker in a side skippered by flanker Jac Morgan.

Elliot Dee provides cover for Elias on the bench, while lock Adam Beard will win his 50th cap. There is also a spot among the replacements for former England prop Henry Thomas, who is on course to make his Wales World Cup debut.

Flanker Tommy Reffell, a late withdrawal due to a tight calf muscle before Wales faced Portugal last weekend, also misses out, with Taine Basham providing back-row bench cover.

“He (Lake) was disappointed. He hasn’t had a lot of rugby, he has been carrying an injury and that was probably the decision we made for that one,” Gatland added.

“I have always been a fan of Elliot Dee in terms of his lineout throwing and how he brings energy off the bench. I know Dewi was disappointed, but it doesn’t mean that he is not going to feature in further games.”

Gatland is relishing another coaching encounter with Australia head coach and former England boss Eddie Jones, who has come in for considerable criticism following the Wallabies’ 22-15 defeat against Fiji last weekend.

That result has left Australia in the last-chance saloon as they look to navigate their way out of Pool C and onwards in the competition.

“You have come to realise what to expect from an Eddie team,” Gatland said.

“With regards to the way they are going to play on Sunday, we have prepared for a couple of scenarios.

“I was surprised at their tactics against Fiji. There were 11 less minutes ball-in-play time to us (Wales against Fiji), so I am not 100 per cent sure tactically how they will come at us.

“As coaches, we all come under pressure at times – it is part of the job.

“In fairness to Eddie, he is trying to take as much pressure off the players as he can, saying he is responsible for the results and that things aren’t good enough.

“Our relationship has always been good. We have been out on a number of occasions and had meals together. I find his company good – he is engaging.

“If you look at the recent record of games between Wales and Australia, there is never much in it. They won’t lie down and roll over for us.

“What I am happy about at the moment is putting some pride back in that Welsh jersey. It doesn’t take long to lose it.

“I don’t think we had the respect of the rugby world in terms of performance and results. That has been an objective of ours over the last few months, and players have made a lot of sacrifices.”

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