Gatland learns from previous mistakes
August 31, 2011
Gatland will hope to avoid an embarrassing first round exit © Getty Images
Wales' boss Warren Gatland has admitted he has sought the advice of his predecessor Gareth Jenkins in a bid to prevent a first round exit.
Jenkins was sacked as Wales' boss after a 38-34 defeat to Fiji in Nantes ended their participation in the 2007 tournament in France. Gatland made an immediate impact upon replacing the former Scarlets supremo, winning a Six Nations Grand Slam in 2008, but the success of his tenure to date will ultimately be decided by how his side fare in New Zealand.
Wales again find themselves facing Fiji in the pool stages, along with South Africa, Samoa and Namibia, and Gatland says he has no intention of allowing his players to adopt the sort of loose game plan that cost the men in red so dearly against the South Sea Islanders last time round. He said: "It is the pinnacle of anyone's career, coach or player, to be involved in a World Cup and the players have worked incredibly hard.
"For me, going back to New Zealand is an honour and we have to do Wales proud. We will give it our best shot. I have spoken to Gareth Jenkins and (his assistant) Nigel Davies about some of the things they did with Wales four years ago and what they would do differently if they had their time again. It was good to listen to them and a big help to me.
"The disappointing thing for the coaches in 2007 was that they had put a tight game plan in place to beat Fiji and for whatever reason the match exploded into a loose affair which played into Fiji's hands.
"As a result Gareth lost his job but the players were still employed the following week. We will certainly look to pick and go against Fiji and Samoa."
Wales depart for the land of the long white cloud on the back of an encouraging series of August Tests, with a narrow defeat to England at Twickenham being followed by victory in the return fixture and a win over Argentina. Gatland has been dealt injury blows with the loss of the likes of captain Matthew Rees, Gavin Henson and Morgan Stoddart, but is confident that his squad, led by Wales' youngest-ever World Cup captain in Sam Warburton, are up to the task and will be firing when their Pool D campaign opens against South Africa on September 11.
"We have to be going to New Zealand with a lot of confidence after beating England and Argentina," he said. "It is hugely positive for us to have South Africa first up. We have (England's) Wayne Barnes refereeing and he is one of the best in the world.
"I would not want to be playing them last as a decider with referees having quarter-finals to think about: they are under as much pressure to perform as players. We have pushed South Africa close in recent encounters and it is about getting over the line.
"We know it will be tough and we have to go there with confidence, putting out our best side to get a performance and a victory. This is the fittest squad I have been involved in and as long as we do not pick up too many key injuries, we have a chance.
"It is a waste of time getting on the plane unless we believe we can go out there, qualify from the group and perform well. I do not like to think in terms of a minimum target. We want to get to the quarter-finals and take it one step at a time. We believe we are good enough."
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
The tone was set early on in Dublin as a more clinical Ireland made England pay. All is not lost, however, argues Phil Vickery
Monday Maul takes in retirement talk, England reshuffles, France's unfair advantage and Scotland's communication breakdown
John Griffiths takes an analytical look at Week 3 of ESPN Scrum's Fantasy Rugby game - who should you have picked?
Ireland coach Joe Schmidt won the tactical battle and set his team on course for a shot at the Grand Slam. Tom Hamilton reports from Dublin