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The making of Wales coach Warren Gatland

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Tom Fordyce | 10:40 UK time, Wednesday, 5 October 2011

Hamilton, North Island

It is a dank, stormy morning in a quiet part of one of New Zealand's quieter cities. Muddy puddles ripple on the playing-fields all around. A solitary, disconsolate figure trudges across the playground, sent out on litter duty while his class-mates eat their lunch.

If it looks and feels about as far from the glamour and excitement of a World Cup quarter-final as one could possibly get, there is a sporting logic to my visit.

This is Hamilton Boys' High, the school where Wales coach Warren Gatland was first taught rugby as a young boy and then excelled as a teenager. Five minutes drive away is the Waikato ground where he became a front-row folk hero and later began a coaching career that would take him to the top of world rugby.

Gatland (centre) began his rugby career at Hamilton Boys' High as a youngster

With the Celtic clash against Ireland just a few days away, I've driven down from Auckland to uncover the seeds of Gatland's rugby philosophy and success. And there are clues everywhere you look.

"Warren had a very serious approach to his schoolwork," remembers his old maths teacher Joe Johnson. "But sport has always been hugely important at this school, and Warren was obsessed with it."

Gatland's headmaster in the late 1970s was Tony Steel, former All Black regular himself and a man who demanded hard work and high standards from his promising young charges.

"Tony spent a fair amount of time mentoring any good sporting student - bringing them in individually, asking them what they were doing, what they had planned," says Johnson. "He laid a very solid foundation for a lot of the guys."

Gatland, brought up by his parents Kaye and Dave on nearby Lawrence Street, showed both an aptitude for sport and an early tactical nous that set him apart from his pimply peers.

Andrew Strawbridge was his best mate from the age of seven and they played in the same cricket and rugby teams at school, shared a house together afterwards and went on to play more than 100 games together in the great Waikato team of the late 1980s and early 1990s.

"Gatty actually taught me how to play rugby," he tells me. "I'd been all about soccer until then.

"He was a pretty talented bloke. He was a very good cricketer, opening the batting, keeping wicket, bowling fast. If he'd had the same passion for cricket as he did rugby I'm sure he could have made it in that.

"Even as kids he thought outside the square a lot. He was always prepared to experiment with the way we did things.

"At one point we didn't have a decent goal-kicker. So Warren practised and practised and turned himself into a pretty good one.

"He was actually originally a number eight. He didn't move to hooker until later, when he didn't grow tall enough to stay in the back row."

On the pitch the emphasis was on running rugby, off it personal responsibility. The school's motto is "Sapiens fortunam fingit sibi" - the wise man carves his own fortune - something Gatland's old history teacher and rugby coach Peter Skerman believes he took to heart.

"He had a good enquiring mind, and was very mature as a player," says Skerman, who now teaches Gatland's son Bryn.

"Warren was always a very good thinker and very good strategist for a young person. He had a very good rugby brain on those young shoulders, an ability to size up an opposition and to come up with a strategy to reply to what they were doing."

He digs out a team photo of the school 1st XV from 1980. There, in the centre of the front row, sits skipper Gatland, implausibly dark-haired and fresh-faced.

He was not always as innocent as he looked. "The first time I ever wagged school [played truant] was with Warren," remembers Strawbridge. "He did what he had to do in class, but he certainly led me astray a little bit."

Gatland

Coach Warren Gatland helped Wales clinch the 2008 Six Nations Championships:PHOTO: PA   

Was the deep-thinking coach and tactician of today evident in the young man?
"I remember one time when we were playing a lads versus dads cricket match at school," says Strawbridge.

"We were about 14, and a bloke called Bruce Pairaudeau was batting. He'd played Test cricket for the West Indies, and although he was about 50 by then, we just couldn't get him out.

"I was keeping wicket, Gatty was at first slip. He turned to me after a bit and pointed out that old Bruce was backing up quite a long way at the non-striker's end.

"He'd worked it out: next time the ball came through to me, I was to toss it to him quickly. So the ball comes through, I flick it to Warren and he throws down the stumps at the bowler's end. Bruce is out.

"To me it says a lot about the man he is - not only his tactical brain, but the skill level to throw down those stumps from slip. He'd worked it all out."

In 1982, his final year at the school, Gatland was named Sportsman of the Year. "Easily one of the most skilful forwards in the country," purred The Hamiltonian, the city's local paper.

The successes were to continue over at Rugby Park with Waikato. With Strawbridge in the backs, Brent 'Buck' Anderson in the second row and future All Blacks coach John Mitchell at eight, the Mooloo Men punched above their provincial weight.

With the notoriously violent Richard Loe at loose-head and reliable Graham Purvis at tight-head, hooker Gatland formed part of an infamously fierce front row.

"Gatty was very strong at the set-piece, and had a great catch-pass game for a front row," recalls Strawbridge.

"As a kid he had very good skill levels, and although the scrummaging took its toll and made him less mobile than he had been, he could still see things before others did, and he had the tackling ability going back to his old days as an eight.

"I'm not at all surprised that's he's gone on to become such a good coach. We achieved a lot in that Waikato team, with that very proficient front row and Mitch in the boot, and Gatty always thought a lot about the way we played the game.

"Mitch wasn't so tactically astute - more of an 'I'm going over the top, follow me!' approach. Warren was more, 'This is how we get round them.'

Gatland went on to play a record 140 times for Waikato, denied more than his 17 All Blacks appearnces by the presence of Sean Fitzpatrick in the number two jersey.

Down at the clubhouse he remains a legend, "a Waikato man through and through," as Skerman puts it, and came back to coach them to the Air NZ Cup after schooling in his new trade at northern hemisphere stop-offs like Galwegians and Connacht.

His achievements in Galway got him the Ireland job, where he gave Ronan O'Gara and current captain Brian O'Driscoll their international debuts and masterminded a first victory over France in Paris in 28 years; his later spell at Wasps forged the key relationship with Shaun Edwards, who as Wales' defence coach will be tasked with stopping O'Driscoll and O'Gara in Wellington on Saturday.

But it is in Hamilton that Gatland remains rooted, still owning a house on the banks of the Waikato River, returning here from Wales to be with wife Trudi when work allows.

He was back at the Boys' High last week before the pool match against Fiji, inducted into the school's hall of fame a year after bringing his touring Wales side into a school assembly ("the boys sang 'Men of Harlech'," remembers Joe Johnson), and in this city when he took the phone call from WRU chief executive Roger Lewis, almost exactly four years ago, that led to him to accepting the job of Wales head coach.

At Waikato home games, supporters like to sing something called the Mooloo Song:


Bells are ringing high
Bells are ringing low
Living in the land
Of the mighty Waikato.

Life is just a ball
You kick with your toe
Ain't no other place
That we'd ever wanna go.


Does Gatland know the words? Stick your savings on it.

Comments

Page 1 of 2

  • Comment number 1.

    As an Englishman I find it staggering how Wales are being completely overlooked in Saturdays match as the media already seem to have an Eng vs Ire final nailed on. Wales have clearly played the best rugby out of the six nations teams and have a very good balance between youth and proper experience ( as oppose to Englands experience which drags the team down, Mike Tindal) and are well capable of getting to the final. Iv'e always ratted Gatland very highly and do wish him the best in getting to the final as I myself see a the French causing an English upset this weekend.

  • Comment number 2.

    well i would be amazed at an england v ireland final seeing as theyre in the same side of the draw.

  • Comment number 3.

    @jacks1988 - I dont know if your just being cocky or actually I think iv'e made massive cock up but I obliviously meant semi final.

  • Comment number 4.

    Great blog Tom!

    Wal vs Ire is going to be a big match, such a buzz about this game and far too close to call. It's a shame that these teams have to play eachother in the quarters because either deserve to be in the semi's.

  • Comment number 5.

    Im Irish and I can tell you no one in Ireland is looking past the Wales game...we know what a challenge it will be and Wales are playing cracking rugby. So I dont know who is saying Ireland are definite winners but it sure as hell isnt the Irish.
    I think we have a great chance of winning as we are playing great rugby too but it all comes down to who holds their nerve on the day.

  • Comment number 6.

    @rugbythesuperiorsport no i wasnt being cocky its called sarcasm

  • Comment number 7.

    If NZ don't win the cup, regardless of how Wales go on Saturday, expect Gatland to be the next AB's coach.

  • Comment number 8.

    @rugbythesuperiorsport.....so it admitting that u did make a massive cock up?
    Like James Mathew, I ain't looking past the weekends game, with my worry that the team which wins what is by far the most interesting game of the qtrs (if you could garauntee that SA vs AUS was full strength that would also be right up there but looking at a SA win I think - too many Aussies in/coming back from the treatment
    room to be good enough) will be so physically/mentally weakened that England will have it easy in the semi. Not that that will make a difference as I still think they would win due to the likes of wilko etc having already won 2semi-finals vs neither Ireland or Wales ever having even reached that stage. Definitely can't wait anyhow!!!

  • Comment number 9.

    One thing that Gatland has managed to do is maintain the respect of the Welsh public and, more importantly, the players even through the spell where they weren't progressing that well. Player power has accounted for many a previous Welsh coach and it speaks volumes that even through tough times he still managed Welsh expectations so well. And he always comes across as a very likeable bloke as well. Fair play to him.

  • Comment number 10.

    #3: "Obliviously" - lovely, wonderful new word creation, love it, have to remember it! Yes, ignore Wales at your perils...My next Lions squad would consist of the entire Ireland and Wales squads. This qaurter final promises to be a thunderguts and skills feast, if not, then skills and thunderguts.

  • Comment number 11.

    #10: Sorry, my dyslexic fingers (or keyboard?) struck again. I meant "quarter", obliviously...

  • Comment number 12.

    Sebastian-Fettles-Teacher

    Hey up kid, see james Mathew must just talk rubbish on England blogs eh? His comment on here is nearly sensible!

  • Comment number 13.

    Lets try and keep the posts rugby related rather then just slagging of peoples grammar this is getting worse then the "debates" that break on a youtube video. Anyone else see Argentina causing an upset.....It could happen ;)

  • Comment number 14.

    Rugbythesuperiorsport

    Did you mean "than" the debates? sorry couldnt resist that one

    Yes any team could beat any other in the quaters, then the semi's ditto, form means nothing once the latter rounds start.

  • Comment number 15.

    Smackeyes...u just dont like my comments on the England based blogs because I speak facts and facts for England do not read well...then you go getting your defensive sensitive head on and start throwing nonsence back because you cant stand England being critised. You gotta take the good with the bad...if England play well on Sat Ill be the first on here prasing them. But at the moment they are dreadful and even you must see that.

    Anyways...back to Gatland. I dont like him as a person...he is too defensive in his interviews and not at all likeable....and then he says stupid things about the Welsh people making us all think they hate the Irish etc...I know they dont...Ive been there :)

  • Comment number 16.

    james mathew

    I agree England are not playing well at present but dont forget i've seen some of your comments on other blogs and have not been the first to pick up on the fact they are essentially anti English, nothing more.

    Most of the stuff you post is relevant, however constantly managing to get "arrogant" and England in almost every post is quite sad.

    I truly hope a northern hemishphere side win the WC just to shut the SH press and teams up. I will even cheer for your beloved Ireland should they reach the final, as I did when you played Australia. It is quite sad that I believe you would not do the same should we reach the final.

  • Comment number 17.

    @Rugbythesuperiorsport

    How have Wales played better rugby than Ireland when Ireland beat the Tri-Nations champions and Wales lost to the Tri-Nations wooden spoon holders?

  • Comment number 18.

    smackeyes...this might shock you but Ive been shouting for England in every game so far and will be again this weekend. I live in England and half my family is married into English familys so I have a great love for England. I just dont like some players and I dont like how MJ is managing the team. And then when I voice my opinion I get people like you getting all sensitive and slaming me so then ofc I might say a few more things to get under your skin....but I dont really mean most of them.

    Come on England and Ireland this weekend.
    p.s: I do like the Welsh...but not this weekend :)

  • Comment number 19.

    Whoever wins the Ireland Wales game, I do hope it's Wales, let's all hope that rugby is the real winner.

  • Comment number 20.

    Nice article, thanks Tom.

    I sense everyone is a touch nervous and excited by the prospect of Saturday's game. It's just a shame it's bubbling over to mild hostility. It's almost as bad as the old 606 message boards on here! The game won't be decided based on any comments or rhetoric fellas - I'm sure Gatland will know that only too well!

  • Comment number 21.

    james mathew

    I will accept this response in relation to most posts as you already know I love to wum, but where does the arrogant thing come from? ( genuine question)

  • Comment number 22.

    You guys need to stick to the script! I thought this was a blog to discuss the fixtures in the World Cup. As for someone not liking a coach ... well, how well do you know him? Gatland is very astute in his interviews. He gives away what he wants to give away ... just like most good coaches! Come on guys, lets talk about rugby! On current form, you have to fancy an England appearance in the semi - whether they are playing well, by their own standards, or not? France have not shown us anything to be impressed by ... but then ... they have done that before, and then turned in a world class performance. Wales have a great chance of making the final, as I think England would not be able to contain them. Ireland could, on their day, beat Wales, but I fear they would be less of a challenge for England. There is a certain predicatbility about ireland, as good as they are. Wales are the surprise package, and have become, in O'Driscoll's opinion today, much more unpredictable. I fancy the Bokke to beat the Wallabies, and I cannot call the outcome of NZ v SA. Too much pressure for the All Blacks, maybe? Carter a huge loss? I love this game!

  • Comment number 23.

    Smurfdabomb ... Did you watch those games? If you did, then the answer was on the screen in front of you!

  • Comment number 24.

    @ 17- Smufsdabomb -

    Oh yes cause this years try nations really was top class wasn't it with all three sides playing their best players week in week out. You beat an Australian side missing their best ball winner at the break down in wet and windy conditions playing a forwards game not that hard to do, even Scotland managed to do that three years back. Your victory against Australia was no mean feet.

  • Comment number 25.

    Quite a funny set of posts - sorry, rugbythesuperiorsport, but the bloopers in your posts are amusing, particularly the freudian slip of 'obliviously. And irishshark in post 8 states 'I ain't looking past this weekend's game', then spends the whole post analysing the potential semi-final - quality !

    I bet on a South Africa/Wales final at the start of the tournament and have seen nothing to change my mind. No really outstanding team, with NZ only favourites because they're at home.

    I now await someone to spot howler in my post - happy to be laughed at, chaps !

  • Comment number 26.

    As a Wasps fan I think Gatland is a legend. We were struggling when he took over and our then coach Nigel Melville had headed off to Gloucester. Gatland had a small budget but revolutionised the team and the academy set up. His tenacity and argumentive nature meant that things got done when the board were being wobbly(threatening to sell Joe Worsley unless he got cash for the academy development and actually winning is a casing point). He turned us into 3 time premiership and Heineken cup champions in 2004 in just four seasons.

    I actually hoped when he said he was returning to europe in 2007, it would be the England job he was being offered. Sadly for me he went West of the border. I think he's done a good job there (as an England fan I wish he hadn't) and could take Wales all the way to the final.

    With Robbie Deans looking settled in the Oz job and the likelihood that Hansen and Smith will the NZ set up when Henry goes, then Gatland could very well be the next All Blacks coach.

  • Comment number 27.

    @irishshark, Wales have reached the semi finals and eventually came third in 1987

  • Comment number 28.

    silkman59

    Possibly putting "a" or "the" between spot and howler?

  • Comment number 29.

    'mean feet' ! - a mouthful of tea has just gone all over the desk !!

    This is what Wilkinson had a pair of in 2003, now he seems to just have a pair of slightly annoyed feet....

  • Comment number 30.

    Have to agree with post no.5. Although I'm Welsh I think it's going to be a cracking match and the winnig team will deserve it.

    Wales have got away with little injury worries and no discipline problems and they know they can beat any Nothern hemisphere team on the right day, so why noy?

  • Comment number 31.

    silkman59

    waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa never noticed that, just nearly wet the bed!

  • Comment number 32.

    I think you will find that no one in the New Zealand media are giving Wales any chance. They are only going for Ireland because they beat (hammered) Australia, until then the NZ media only had New Zealand to win it, with the RSA and Australia the only ones to stop them. IMHO if Wales can hold on for an hour it will be close the young players have done Wales proud. While Ireland a side who have been together as a group longer, have done exceptionally well. Whatever the result I am sure it will be a great game and the losers will wish the victors well. On a last note if England beat France do not rule them out in getting if not winning the final. Let rugby be the winner.

  • Comment number 33.

    Irishshark @ 8 complains about someone else's cockup on semi and then makes a mistake himself. Wales and Ireland have both made it into the semi's of world Cup. 1987 and 1991 respectively. Pure hypocrisy!

  • Comment number 34.

    No sorry Ireland it was Scotland wasn't it! oops

  • Comment number 35.

    jacks1988 - In 1987 Wales lost to NZ in the Semi Final and France beat Australia in the other semi. With Wales beating Australia to take 3 rd place. Is it going to be history repeating it`s self with a NZ v France final? I think not if England beat France then like I posted earlier I can see them going to the final.

  • Comment number 36.

    Amazing that only a few months ago the talk was of Gatland not lasting past the World Cup, yet a loss against SA, a very good win against Samoa, a win against Namibia during which a Namibian lock skinned the Welsh defence, and a win against Fiji who barely bothered to play and suddenly he's a god-like figure! My worry for Wales is that they have one tactic: Send a big centre down the middle, hope for a gap, crab sideways, repeat.

  • Comment number 37.

    As an Englishman the England team's performances have been disappointing to date. But watching the Irish and Welsh has been a breath of fresh air! I'm really looking forward to their game this weekend and like everyone else, feel it's a shame they are meeting so early. As a neutral I'll be sitting watching and loving the match ups all over the pitch. So glad I'm not welsh or Irish as this could be a real nail biter! :o) Good luck to both teams and hopefully the winner will play England in the semis. Not confident of that with our performances so far and the French being so unpredictable!

  • Comment number 38.

    A good article Tom ! But i can't help wishing that somebody was visting the Welsh coaches old school here in wales ! I'm not a sporting dinosaur (45) but i look at international rugby teams and coaching and people are brought in from anywhere
    as long as they have a loose conection (great great grandmother, 3 years residency etc). Its not just Rugby but all sports these days and i guess it's down to money again (pressure to succeed). It just makes it hard to be patriotic having to reminisce about the good old days in North island New Zealand when your Cardiff born and bred !!!!!

  • Comment number 39.

    I'M IRISH AND LIVE IN PARIS ,SO NOT AROUND THE HYPE AT HOME.... BUT HERE THE FRENCH REALLY WANT TO BEAT THE ENGLISH, AND SHOULD!!!!!
    IRELAND TO BEAT WALES?? TWO GREAT SIDES PITY THERE IN THE SAME GAME...
    BUT LETS BE REAL..... IRELAND'S PERFORMANCE AGAINST THE AUSSIES STANDS OUT !!!
    SO I'LL GO WITH MY IRELAND ...BUT HOWEVER SHOULD THE WELSH BOYS WIN ITS A BELT OF THE CELT FOR THE SEMI'S .... ROLL ON SATURDAY IN A PARIS IRSH PUB

  • Comment number 40.

    An idea for ENGLANDS PROBLEM what colour strip will we wear today!! with the amount of foreign players they have in their squad ie STEVENS. HARTLEY. TUILAGI. WALDROM. FLUTEY. etc etc you get the drift.they could wear BLACK and WHITE hoops and the country of origin socks and become the ENGLISH BAA BAAS on and off the field

  • Comment number 41.

    My point exactly FANOFRUGBY !!!!

  • Comment number 42.

    Smackeyes....the arrogance comes from English fans...I have read so many times how England will walk to the final, not even considering France, Ireland or Wales as a contest. And using the your past WC performances as a reason why ye are destined to make the final. Ireland and Wales are playing great rugby right now but you have not heard one fan from either country talk about how the QF is an easy win and then the SF will be a walkover so we guaranteed the final.

    Its just a culture thing...English are more confident\arrogent then Irish or Welsh. It comes from your imperialistic background I suppose. Plus your not able to take critisim. You get your knickers in a twist when someone says something and you start calling them anti English.

  • Comment number 43.

    Redport

    New Zealand coaches are everywhere. Personally speaking I'd love it if everyone just picked from amongst their own - that would mean the ABs wouldn't have to face the prospect of losing to a team coached by one of their own. I'm sure Wales has the know how. Also it's not as though we have figured out a way to win the Webb Ellis for a while.

    ( Now, I fully expect a lot of numpties to wade in with poaching comments concerning All Blacks who were targetted at the age of 5 or 6 by the clever ruse of making work available to their parents in the motor assembly industry ).

    Fair enough - let's "return" them even though we'll be interfering with their rights as New Zealand citizens. But in return we'll call all of our boys back from the Samoan, Tongan and English teams.

  • Comment number 44.

    IRLAND HOME GROWN PLAYERS..HOME HEAD COACHED....INTHE QF....NOW WHERE ARE YOUR STANDARDS ? ONE GAME AT A TIME.... READING SOME BLOGS YOU HAVE WON THE WC ALREADY....3 MORE GAMES TO GO...SHOLDER TO SHOLDER... NO BITCHING LIKE SOME TEAMS

  • Comment number 45.

    EalingWelsh at 33...you're wrong as well. Can people make sure of facts before opening up on these sites. Wales made the semi's in 1987 before NZ walloped them 49-6. Ireland have never made a semi and weren't in one in '91. that was Aus v NZ and Eng v Scotland, with NZ getting 3rd

  • Comment number 46.

    I am not Welsh, but I am a big supporter of Wales, so I would dearly love to see them go as far as possible. By some of the Irish people I know here, I can honestly say that they are bullish about Saturday's match. One or two of them have talked about the semi-final with England as if it's all a foregone conclusion! Similar to many English bloggers, there appears to be a level of oblivious disrespect for the opposition. I remember one of my Irish friends disdainfully saying Wales were lucky in their 2005 & 2008 Grand Slam victories. Well, to me this current side looks even more the business, and demands respect. I hope with all my soul they will keep playing to their true potential!

  • Comment number 47.

    james mathew

    I was starting to think you were not as bad as I thought, however generalising seems to be a bit of an issue for you. Most England fans I have read accept there is a problem with the team and do not expect to win at all.

    I also believe I have seen many threads stating how Ireland would rather face England than France because they feel more CONFIDENT of beating them!!?? Then you use the fact that Ireland have beaten England 7 out of the last 8 times but England cannot use previous history in the world cup... confusing.

    Enjoy your game on Saturday and lets hope the semi final is a cracker whoever plays.

    p.s you never answered my question about football blog posters?

  • Comment number 48.

    james mathew @42

    What arrogance from english fans? we are too busy criticising the team to be arrogant! Its the same whenever england are at a major tournament (football, rugby etc) all we do is compare our dull style to other countries more flamboyant play.

  • Comment number 49.

    smackeyes

    I know enough English people and have enough English friends not to generalise but the majority of the ones on these forms come across arrogent. The English rugby fans I know are very worried about France and are equally as worried about their form. Yet they know if they play well England can win. That to me is a proper fan...not some of the guys on this that say oh France will be an easy win and then Ire\Wal will crash under the pressure of a semi bla bla.

    Sorry if it seemed like I was generalising, I suppose I was in a way but only about the ones on this forum. As for Ireland saying we would prefer to play England rather then France...why is that arrogent? One team we have a great record with and the other we have an awful one...so say we would prefer to play England doesnt mean we think we will win...we think we have a better chance of winning then if we were playing France. There is nothing arrogent about...its just common sense.

  • Comment number 50.

    Just to cut through some of the hypocrisy on here (particularly from fanofrugby and redport), I agree that England have players born elsewhere, but so do Wales (5, inc 4 born in England), and Scotland (7, inc. 3 born in England), Australia 7, Ireland and NZ, 4 each. So this isn't a 'English Barbarians' issue, this is the way the game as gone, and most nations are taking advantage.

  • Comment number 51.

    james matthew

    CONFIDENT not arrogant I think I said. Two different meanings

  • Comment number 52.

    So by your equation, being confident of beating England is also being arrogant. Therefore you are arrogant, yes/no?

  • Comment number 53.

    I never said I would be confident of beating England...show me where I said that?
    I said we would prefer to play Eng instead of Fra....if someone asked you would you like to play Romania or New Zealand in the final and you said Romania...that wouldnt make you arrogent. What makes you arrogent is when you brush past teams like France and Ireland\Wales as if its not even a contest...which I have read plenty of. One forum turned into a forum of who would England meet in the final...thats arrogent.

    Anyways lets move past this...3 fantastic games this weekend...come on Ireland and England.

    Smackeyes...Oz v Sa...your thoughts?

  • Comment number 54.

    to be brutally honest i would think wales are the favourites to make it to their half of the final. England arent playing that well, and wales out played them in both warm ups, france, well who knows if france are going to turn up for the knockouts. as for ireland its going to be a tight game but i cant help thinking wales will win by around 10 points.. wales beat them in the six nations and i just think we'll have a bit much for the irish. slate me if you must but i just cant get these red goggles!!:D

  • Comment number 55.

    Kiwis to beat Pumas 36 - 10. Bok's over Wallibies 20 - 10. England lose to France 22 - 17. No idea for Irish v Welsh but has the prospect to be the game of the tournament so far and really looking forward to watching that as a neutral. Would be a bag of nerves if I was Irish or Welsh as this could go right down to the wire

  • Comment number 56.

    As has become the norm, the big contest in IRE/WAL wil be at the breakdown, both teams have top quality loose trios; if Wales achieve parity there I can see them taking out the match as they have the more penetrative backline.

  • Comment number 57.

    Having given this a lot of thought over the last few days - Wales will win of course!

    All this nonsense about where players/ coaches were born??? We all adhrere to the same rules (apart from Wales in late 90s!) If NZ were short of options (as they might start to feel now) I'm sure they'd consider a change in policy too.

    It's teh mix of backgrounds that has raised the game in the N. hemisphere - so we should be thankful for that at least.

  • Comment number 58.

    #1 I really do not think anyone is overlooking Wales, most people expect it to be a great match but there is a general feeling that the Irish forwards may be just a bit too powerful for Wales.

    As bleublack says the breakdown is the key area. My concern (and one of the reasons I think Ireland will win) is that unless Wales can whip the ball away quickly, the power and dynamism of O Brien, Ferris, POC and Heaslip at breakdown could lead to turnovers. Add to this the "choke" tackle that Irish are using to prevent mauls becoming rucks and there is potentially a real problem for Wales.

    Also there is no way England are nailed on to beat France. Nobody knows whether France will play as a team or a rabble from one game to the next. Mind you I think Parra at 10 is a big mistake. England now no longer need an openside to go chasing the fly half, Jonny can do a tackling number on him.

  • Comment number 59.

    imagine the lions scrum in 2013..... -shudder- gatland is a cracking tactician AND man-manager and wouldnt be suprised if we lost him to the ABs after WC
    good blog tom

  • Comment number 60.

    Am I the only one who read the cricket anecdote and thought what a terrible display of bad sportsmanship? I can't say I like Gatland he's far too bristly and his attempts at mindgames a la 'the Welsh hate the Irish more than anyone' just smack of childishness.

    He wasn't great as Irish coach and I certainly remember calls from Welsh fans to get rid of him this year and last. There seems to have been little building on the 2008 sucess and if anything Wales have slipped backwards. That said as a club coach he's been very successful.

    If they lose on Saturday what will Wales have to look at from the world cup? Thrashing weak teams, losing to South Africa and a struggled win over Samoa are not much to crow about. That said he's taken them to their first quarter final for 8 years and, if they do win on Saturday, their first semi final for 24 so that in itself would be an achievement and who said you had to be a nice guy to be a good coach?

  • Comment number 61.

    silkman, you say about countries having players "born abroad", it doesnt really apply to wales. The ones born in england have welsh blood and most also having been brought up through the welsh educational and rugby system.

    thats quite a lot different from players being born and bred in a foreign country, play for a few years in england, and then decide to play for england as theyre not being picked for their home nation.

  • Comment number 62.

    Too right on the Lions scrum judecoolio - shame it will be wasted on Oz! I'd like to see that pack head to head with SA.

    Wales seems to be a training ground for NZ coaches these days

  • Comment number 63.

    "My worry for Wales is that they have one tactic: Send a big centre down the middle, hope for a gap, crab sideways, repeat."

    I'm not sure that is a fair assessment of Wales' tactics, but if it is then who cares? It seems to be working. 21 tries at the world cup at 28 tries in the last 7 games, including four against England. Keep bashing up the middle I say!

  • Comment number 64.

    LastKingOfEngland - I think it's a bit harsh to say there's been little building since 2008. Since 2008 Gatland has introduced a new generation of young players who, though inexpereinced, are playing intelligent, effective and exciting rugby - regardless of opposition. That;s something that no-one has been able to say about Wales for along time and Gatland should take some credit for that.

  • Comment number 65.

    With so much young talent on show across the four home nations, have to say I'm drooling at the thought of the possible Lions squad for Oz! If they gel they could become one hell of a team.

  • Comment number 66.

    As I miss the old 606 I thought I would add my two bobs worth to this blog.

    As I see it all the games are going to be close except the NZ vs Arg where I can see a relatively big win for the ABs. My main concern is the refs. I don't normally mention them as in all sports what comes around goes around and over the years things generally even out. But in this tournament I have noticed so many bad decisions especially forward passes going unnoticed or back passes being pulled for going forward. Does anyone else agree?

    All I will predict is come Sunday i bet all the talk is about a huge gaf made by some ref or linesman that has cost someone a place in the semis.

    As an aussie I am not holding out much hope but it is good to go in to a game not feeling too much pressure as not many predict we will win. Just how I like it!

  • Comment number 67.

    Perhaps I am being harsh about the development point. But Wales acheived Grand Slams in 05 and 08, though the years in between were poor, and with that kind of achievement they should have been moving on to stay around the top of at least Northern Hemisphere rugby. Yet for the last 3 six nations they've been in the bottom half of the table and not really getting anywhere against the Southern Hemisphere sides. All this with some very good players in the team.

    As I said this Saturday's game is make or break for judgement on Gatland. Win and he's the best coach Wales have had for 24 years, lose and he guided them to 2nd in a group where they were expected to finish 2nd whilst losing the only games they played against real opposition.

  • Comment number 68.

    d

  • Comment number 69.

    I highly doubt Gatland will be the next AB coach. Hansen is next in line. You need provincial and international credentials and be based in NZ for at least 5 years before one can be considered. I dont think Gatland ticks any of these boxes. Nothing against the guy.

    I would like Gatland to continue with Wales till 2015 as there a lot of young talent coming through.

  • Comment number 70.

    i will turn to god if Wales get to the finals

  • Comment number 71.

    ashessledger you're not the only one who's been unhappy with the reffing. There have been problems pretty much right the way through. Kaplan and Lawrence have been the most notably bad choices for me but then I expected that. Joubert and Owens have probably been the best 2.

    From an England point of view we've had Kaplan, Lawrence and they're rounding it off with Clancy, things can only get better.

  • Comment number 72.

    james mathew

    Fair enough buddy

    Oz v SA can only see one result to be honest. the Aussies are suffering some real injury problems are they not. SA win for me.

    Ireland v Wales........... Ireland to choke the life out of Wales, they will be too street wise and wily fro a relatively young Wales side. It will be close though no more than 20 points in the whole match I think. Eng v France.............. another poor performance but a narrow win for England unless Lievremont has some real surprises. NZ v Argentina................. Nz win but not by as many as people think, and Mr offside specialist himself Mccaw will get steamrollered by an Argie forward.

    Here endeth Smackeyes predictions for the weekend

  • Comment number 73.

    Gatland has been LUCKY!

    Due to injury (with the exception of the golf buggy incident and old age catching up with Martyn Williams), he was forced to draft in untested youngsters into the back row. It just so happened that he hit the jackpot with Lydiate, Faletau and Warburton. These three have very quickly cemented their places as 1st choice in their relative positions and I fully expect them to be selected again tomorrow. Similarly, if Hook or Steven Jones had remained injury-free over the past couple of years would we now be seeing Priestand, Jonathan Davies and Scott Williams in contention? As for George North, he is just so big in every way that he could not be ignored. Even Matthew Rees' injury has kind of worked in his favour: he had to pick a new captain, and boy hasn't he found a good one! And, to top it all, Gethin Jenkins, Adam Jones, James Hook, Halfpenny et al are all back and fighting fit. If it wasn't for the fact that the 'new' boys are genuine quality, today we would be still wondering what positions Ryan Jones, Jon Thomas (left at home) and Powell should be occupying in the back row and whether Hook should be starting at 10, 12, 13 or 15? - as it stands they may make the bench. I also would not be surprised if Steven Jones has played his last game for Wales, Hook along with Scott Williams on the bench to cover the aforementioned positions.

    Overall though Gatland's reign has had a positive effect. The side is now fit and properly prepared for action, whereas on too many occasions in the past they couldn't last the 80 minutes. Oh, and Gatland, please do not give the opposition another motivational talk - remember we LOVE the Irish and you are a LUCKY blighter!

  • Comment number 74.

    WG is a thoroughly down to earth guy. I'll bet he's managed to slip back to his old Club, Taupiri and to the local tavern, in Jeans and an old sweater for a beer with his old mates.

  • Comment number 75.

    As a Welsh fan, I'm very pleased in the way Gatland has identified players he believes in and got them playing to the best of their abilities and with real cohesion as a team. Win or lose on Saturday, the boys have done us proud. We have a real prospect of reaching the final and who would have thought that a few months ago.

  • Comment number 76.

    @ smackeyes

    I hope ye get thrashed on Sat.I would rather even take a SH team beat ye in the final if it comes to that.Out of the "home nations" England has the biggest population,the biggest player pool and the best league yet ye are probably the worst team out of all of them bar Scotland of course.Stick with the bowls as i told u before you plonker.

  • Comment number 77.

    First time I've ever made a post, but just have to join in the passionate debates going on around RWC 2011! Great article about WG. You can see why he has had such a positive influence on a great young Welsh squad. I'm English and a proud England supporter, but at RWC will support any NH team against those from the south. It's clear that England have some disciplinary issues and on the field some shortcomings in the front row, so best they can expect is a semi-final place, provided the French don't suddenly turn up and play! What has been the revelation for me is the way the Welsh team has come together and since the narrow loss against SA, has continued to improve and look like a tight and happy unit. The QF against Ireland will be a titanic battle, but I think the Welsh will sneak it because some of the younger players have no fear of failure, which much as I respect the huge experience of the Irish team, may be a problem that haunts them from past failures. Wales will then have far too much for England in the SF, at least 20pts IMO, which will leave a rematch with SA in the final. No ABs in the final? Flat track bullies, then chokers on the big occasion. SA know how to win ugly, but a final against Wales will be a close one to call.

  • Comment number 78.

    Hi Tom ...
    Another great Blog ... Looking forward to Saturday , two of the most entertaining sides in the WC come head 2 head , congrats to the Irish lads on beating the aussies and making it an all northern hemisphere route to the final ...

  • Comment number 79.

    Practically everyone I work with in Dubai are Irish, I wouldn't say anyone is taking a win for granted but they are outwardly confident, but thats a natural trait! But quietly they think the same as most of us welsh fans, it's too tight to call, good match ups all over the field, and good style and tactical battles. This choke tackle tactic I don't believe will be an issue to Wales, we don't maul a huge amount in open play, it's usually set piece
    Also not convinced that the Irish back row will dominate in the loose at least, Wales back row very dynamic and add to that a 17 stone centre and winger, the advantage will be at the breakdown, if Wales compete well there we can win, I hope and pray, as I am watching the game with a house full of Irishmen,, pob lwc Cymru!

  • Comment number 80.

    There's some strange comments coming from (thelastkingofengland).
    But there again not like an english man to complain about the refs , thought Kaplan + lawrence had decent games ... why make or break for WG ? ... you should be worried about johnson's job , problems on the pitch & problems off it , 1 or 2 little hiccups for him dwarfgate, ballgate & cowandgate ... no point crying over spilt milk when the frech beat you :¬)

  • Comment number 81.

    ioc1984

    See you are back from the pub after spending tax payers money again you clown.

  • Comment number 82.

    I don't think Warren will ever be asked to coach the All Blacks, not sure who he annoyed but there seems to be some sort of forcefield surrounding NZRFU headquarters that will prevent them from hiring him. Good to see everyone over in Europe a bit jittery about the coming quarters. I have Wales v Ireland as too close to call, so won't bother and will sit back and enjoy it. I'm leaning with England over France but France are a Jekyll and Hyde team and here's hoping Mr Hyde turns up. As I'm a Kiwi I hope Australia win and the All Blacks will have to wait till the semis to implode. Good luck everyone!

  • Comment number 83.

    43

    The problem with your post and the vast majority of NZlanders is that you deny that you have foreign-born players in your sporting sides. Or at the very least try and hide away from that fact. No one I know that understand the demographic of NZ really believes that you have poached players. However the fact remains that you do and have over the years had many many non-NZ-born-players in your sporting sides. THAT IS A FACT

    In the last few years other countries have also included non-country-born players and NZlanders have been at the forefront of decrying this.

    I have been in NZ for 4 weeks and I can't tell you how many times I have been "accosted" by Kiwis for apparently steeling Kiwi SA you name it players. The NZ press is full of it almost every day.

    Most of the non-born English players in both rugby and cricket have in fact be in England for some considerable time and in fact are very similar to the PI players, in terms of where they were brought up. I SAID MOST.

    NZ are not in a position to decry other nations for having non-NZ-born sports stars all country’s have these individuals.

    I watched a netball match the other night the main shooter and according to the TV the best player NZ had ever had was from SA….

    Just remember the first winning rugby full back to raise “bill” was an Englishman…


    I am not having a go just pointing out that all country’s have foreign born sports folk.

  • Comment number 84.

    12 months ago Gatland's reputation was in the trouble but bold decisions over the last 12months has seem him placed back on the coaches top table.

    I think the winner from the wales ireland game will win the rwc 2011. It's a big call but I think both countries are playing the best rugby (ex. NZ) and it's unimaginable that England will huff, puff and 'grind' their way to a 3rd successive ......... I hope not.

    IF Wales win, Gatland will walk into the NZ job.

  • Comment number 85.

    I was at the Wales Ireland game in Cardiff 2005 when Wales won the Grand Slam & again in 2009 when Ireland won theirs - fantastic games played in a fantastic atmosphere. I hope this year's World Cup Winners come from this game (and wear red)

  • Comment number 86.

    @15 james mathews



    The facts being England are 4 from 4? Won the group? Have the tournaments top try scorer? Scored a try in every match? Only conseeded one try? Have conceeded the second least amount of points?

    That deff doesnt read well. Lets see what we can produce when they start playing well!

  • Comment number 87.

    Justin150

    i wasn't able to respond on the last blog as it had been shut down.

    As far as below goes.

    As bleublack says the breakdown is the key area. My concern (and one of the reasons I think Ireland will win) is that unless Wales can whip the ball away quickly, the power and dynamism of O Brien, Ferris, POC and Heaslip at breakdown could lead to turnovers. Add to this the "choke" tackle that Irish are using to prevent mauls becoming rucks and there is potentially a real problem for Wales.

    I see it the same way and it my concern. What I will say though was after watching SA Wales again the other night just how physical Wales were. i don't think they'll get steam rolled and may even cause some surprises with the overall physicality.

    You're right about the breakdown and choke hold. Which is why I think wales need to really mix their game up and play a kicking game when needed and play a running game in the right areas.

    Also when going through the phases - need to have plans to counter the choke hold.

    They played Ireland in the 6 Nations when they used the same tactics and no each other well from the Magners etc.

    So the Welsh players and coaches should be aware of how wily Ireland are.

    Offloading to support runners before the tackle and having dummy runners and using dummy runners, as well as going to ground early or chipping behind or kicking for deep territory (a mixture of al these) should keep Ireland guessing and on their toes.

    One major plus in our favour that has changed since the 6 Nations games is we are far less predictable and Priestland at 10 really mixes it up and makes the right decisions. If we do the paragraph above, we're in with a great chance.

    If we give a crash ball to Roberts to run straight with no other variety, Ireland will eat us alive.


    Also there is no way England are nailed on to beat France. Nobody knows whether France will play as a team or a rabble from one game to the next. Mind you I think Parra at 10 is a big mistake. England now no longer need an openside to go chasing the fly half, Jonny can do a tackling number on him.

    Completely agree - England have played poorly, yet are in the Q/F and are capable on the day of beating anybody (especially with Carter out - as I'd say Wales and Ireland are too).

    France look to be in complete disarray and our playing awfully and look like they have absolutely no chance of winning the World Cup. So, wouldn't it be just like France to go and do that very thing now they're completely written off.

  • Comment number 88.

    Wales V Ireland could be one of the games of this WC. Just annoyed I am only going to see the first half. As for Gatland he seems to be a bit of a mixed bag as coach for Wales, has had some good times but some very poor times. However Wales could be peaking at a very nice point for him.

    I dont think anyone in England see our route to the final as "easy". I am genuinly worried about Saturday, but also believe we CAN win. And then whoever we would meet in the semi's, we can also beat (We have beaten all 3 teams in our side of the draw this year).

    Are the English of the antics really that much of a big deal? No. I don't understand why people bring them up.

    English baabaas? NOT AGAIN! But well put silkman59 (post 50)

  • Comment number 89.

    Got to love that these people keep moaning about the nationality of the english players. I mean Faletau is a good strong welsh surname steeped in mining heritage!

    Still, if its the only thing people have to moan about they must be having pretty good lives.

    Am really looking forward to seeing these two celtic nations beating seven bells of.... out of each other. then hopefully England will be able to finish them off in the SF if we get past the tricky French lads.

    All in all, looks like a good weekend of rugby ahead of us!

  • Comment number 90.

    So what do people make of the Welsh squad? Halfpenny ahead of Hook at 15? At one point it seemed Hook had to be in the starting 15, didnt matter where just as long as he was there!
    Shane Williams is a classic try scorer. But for me he was a weak link n defence against SA, and was partly responsible for letting 2 tries in!

  • Comment number 91.

    Also I hope that this time there is no mix up over the balls in the Ireland/Wales match. Some seriously poor officiating there!

  • Comment number 92.

    Flood at 12? Good or bad?

  • Comment number 93.

    Flood at 12! I am actually excited about this…..I just really didn’t think it would happen! Why take 2 10's and 4 "centres" and then when your first choice 12 is injured use your back up 10?

    Madness or Genius? We shall see on Saturday!

  • Comment number 94.

    Gatland has been through quite a lot with the Welsh team but he's stood strong. He's made some gutsy decisions (Naming Warburton captain etc...) which have paid off. I'm massively nervous about the game, it's difficult to call it, just hope the boys come out on top. Cymru Am Byth!

    @93: Wonder how Wilkinson and Flood will perform together. Looks like Flood (before selection) had some pretty strong opinions that won't help their relationship. Wonder who he had in mind here:

    "You want to be selected on current form, not because eight years ago you were outstanding - I was playing really well when I was 12,"

  • Comment number 95.

    @94: Obviously Tindall isn't it. He was playing 12 8 years ago, and now Flood has been picked there. Blatantly the shirt he was after all along!

    ;)

  • Comment number 96.

    Just turned on the news and viewed the welsh side to face the irish ...
    Great selection chice from WG , attacking options all over the field from 1 through to 15 , really strong bench also ...

  • Comment number 97.

    Daverichallen @93.....................

    do you think it's because the other centres maybe aren't god enough?

    Johnson needs to put his head above the parapet (if that's how you spell it) and start playing a few younger players and give them a chance regardless of what is written in the press........
    ......... Is Steve Thompson really the best hooker in England, considering he retired from international rugby once..... watch him against France, he pops up out of the scrum more times than a meerkat on acid!!

  • Comment number 98.

    Of the NH teams, Ireland have been the most progressive since the warm up games, Wales have been the most consistent (narrow defeats to England and SA that they should have won both!), France have been severely inconsistent, England have not lived up to the hype and have limped along, Italy have showed signs of promise and Scotland.... well, they must wish that had a set of backs who could use the ball their forwards win!

  • Comment number 99.

    " The making of Warren Gatland"

    Well, there was Mr and Mrs Gatland you see, and one night........... then voila," ello Warren!"

  • Comment number 100.

    SILKMAN 59
    I think you missed my point ! If you read my comment again i did not signal out any one team not even rugby union ???

    But now you have bitten i think your comment about 5 of the Welsh squad being born in England is irrelevant.

    If a player move's at a young age to another country (relocating for family reasons)
    why would anybody have a problem with that ?

    It is not right when a player moves to a country with the intention of trying to get into that countries team after 3 years just because he knows he is not good enough to get into the side of his homeland !!!

 

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