Rugby World Cup: Wales free of 'group of hell' - Warren Gatland

Warren Gatland
Warren Gatland is the first Wales boss to have coached at two World Cups
Rugby World Cup: Australia v Wales
Venue: Twickenham Date: Saturday, 10 October
Coverage: Live on BBC Radio 5 live and sports extra, BBC local radio, plus live text commentary on every match on the BBC Sport website
Further coverage: BBC Radio Wales, BBC Radio Cymru, BBC Radio Scotland, BBC Radio Ulster and BBC Local Radio

Wales coach Warren Gatland says he always backed his team to qualify from what he dubbed the "group of hell".

He also rounded on the organisers' decision to draw the pools that pitted England, Wales and Australia against each other.

England's 33-13 defeat by Australia means Wales reached the quarter-finals with a Pool A match against the Wallabies to come on Saturday.

"We don't have the burden of needing to win the game to qualify," said Gatland.

"It was the group of hell, we can take the shackles off now," he added.

Gatland's side face Michael Cheika's men at Twickenham in a game that will decide who tops the pool - and which opponents they face in the quarter-finals.

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Wales captain Sam Warburton tells Scrum V he was impressed with Australia in their win over England at Twickenham.

South Africa, Scotland or Japan lie in wait from Pool B in which each of those teams have won two of their three games to date.

Australia's triumph at Twickenham ended hosts England's hopes and Gatland says also having Wales in the group as well as Fiji was "ridiculous".

"We knew how tough this group was going to be right from the start, and not just with England, Australia and ourselves, because Fiji are a tough proposition as well," he said.

"I think if Fiji had been in a couple of other groups, they would have qualified for the quarter-finals as well.

"It has been not just the group of death, but the group of hell, basically, for all of us.

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"Everyone is making a thing about the first home country to hold a World Cup to miss out on the quarter-finals, but the stupid thing, as we all know, is why was the World Cup draw done three years ago?

"That's just ridiculous as far as I am concerned. If they had followed the football model, then we wouldn't be in this position."

Gatland said Australia did Wales "a massive favour".

He added: "It's great that we have qualified, but you have got to feel for other people involved in other teams because there is a huge amount at stake.

"It's families and livelihoods and all that sort of stuff."

The New Zealander said he sympathised with England boss Stuart Lancaster, whose position is under scrutiny.

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"I have a huge amount of respect for what he has done - when he took over the job, in terms of the discipline he has instilled in that side and how his players conduct themselves," added Gatland.

Wales must end a 10-match losing streak against Australia if they are to win Pool A.

Wales beat Uruguay in their opener before stunning England 28-25, then saw off Fiji's stern challenge before Australia helped ensure their progress

"A lot of people have written us off, and we have demonstrated that character when we are under pressure," said Gatland.