Gatland says Wales will surprise at 2023 World Cup

2 weeks ago 21

Wales head coach Warren Gatland believes his side will surprise teams at the World Cup in France later this year.

Wales were beaten 41-28 by France in Paris as they suffered a fourth defeat in five games.

Gatland emulated the fifth position of Wayne Pivac's side in last season's Six Nations table.

"We will surprise some teams in the World Cup by how good we will be," said Gatland.

"And how much we will improve having that time together to prepare.

"We are taking steps in the right direction during this campaign, but we have a lot of work to do.

Wales went to Paris having won their first game of the tournament as they beat Italy 29-17 last weekend in Rome.

They could not replicate that win despite scoring the opening try through George North and gaining a losing bonus point with second-half scores from Bradley Roberts, Tomos Williams and Rio Dyer.

Gatland, who took over from Pivac in December for a second stint in charge, believes Wales will benefit from the time they have spent together over the last two months.

"It was a very short preparation time in terms of meeting with the players, a lot of new players, and trying to find out where we were as a squad," added Gatland.

"We realised from the start there's a reasonable amount of work to do in a lot of areas.

"We tried to prioritise some of those and focus on some of those. We're disappointed because there's games there that we will be good enough to win, but we're not there yet.

"We'll continue to do that. We showed some progression in this tournament, which is the most pleasing thing.

"Today against a team that when they get on top of you, they can punish you. A bit like the All Blacks (and) what they did to England last week.

"The boys didn't capitulate. They showed some heart and character. That's what we're looking for as a starting point.

"I think there's some real positives to take out of it building forward and I am proud of the boys."

Owens' dash to see baby born before France gameReport: France beat Wales 41-28

Gatland also paid tribute to number eight Taulupe Faletau, who became the eighth player to celebrate 100 Wales caps.

"It was an incredibly special moment last night when we celebrated Taulupe Faletau's 100th.

"We had a video set up with lots of messages from people he had grown up with and played with.

"We had his mum and dad there, his wife Charlotte and kids and aunt and sister. It was pretty emotional.

"As a group, we are getting back to where we want to get in terms of getting closer and putting some of those differences behind us.

"Everyone doesn't have to like each other, but you want to have respect."

Gatland made 26 changes in the tournament as he attempts to settle on his starting XV.

"That'll change over the next few months," said Gatland.

"I said right from the start that was going to happen, that we'd give youngsters an opportunity.

"We wanted to see where the players were in the squad. We knew we had older experienced players who we knew what they could do and we had someone like Rhys Webb who has come back out of the wilderness and given us food for thought. Tomos Williams was great today.

"We've got a few guys who are injured as well who hopefully, in the next few weeks, come back in and put their hands up ahead of the wider World Cup squad."

Management departures to come?

Captain Ken Owens revealed in the post-match press conference some members of management were leaving with Gatland refusing to comment on who was departing.

Gatland has to contend with major issues off the field, but there has been some promising news over the weekend.

Wales' four professional rugby teams can begin re-signing players after agreeing new standard form contracts with the Professional Rugby Board (PRB).

Cardiff, Dragons, Scarlets and Ospreys had been able to make only verbal contract offers for several weeks.

The Welsh Rugby Players Association (WRPA) had threatened strike action and Wales' Six Nations game against England only went ahead after talks.

However, players are braced for pay cuts.

"There is no doubt it has been quite significant during this campaign the stuff that was going on behind the scenes," says Gatland

"The boys were brilliant in the way they handled it, but when a player in contract is offed 20% of what they are currently on, it is pretty challenging.

"Everyone gets to hear about those things, then other players with no contracts at all.

"We had the other stuff at the start of the campaign as well going on with the WRU in terms of the allegations and things.

"It has been testing and challenging, but the boys have worked through that."

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