Gatland hails ruthless Wales
October 2, 2011
Sam Warburton scored one of Wales' tries against Fiji © Getty Images
Warren Gatland hailed Wales' ruthless streak after they inflicted a record World Cup defeat on Fiji and emphatically avenged the nightmare of Nantes.
Fiji knocked Wales out of the last World Cup in France four years ago, a 38-34 defeat that cost Gareth Jenkins - Gatland's predecessor as coach - his job. As on that occasion, the Pool D rematch produced nine tries, but this time they were all scored by Wales on route to a 66-0 success.
Ireland now await them in the opening quarter-final at Wellington Regional Stadium next Saturday, the countries' first meeting since scrum-half Mike Phillips scored a controversial try to give Wales victory during last season's Six Nations Championship.
Wales led Fiji 31-0 at the interval, and Gatland said: "We spoke at half-time about what good teams would do with that kind of score. They would not take their foot off the pedal, and I thought we did that.
"The pleasing thing from our point of view was we were in front. We could have easily slacked off, conceded a couple of tries, but we kept working until the 80th minute. But we are under no illusions. We know that Fiji made ten changes, so we need to make sure we don't get too carried away with the result and just keep perspective."
Wales finished second in their group behind world champions South Africa, but they scored 180 points and 23 tries from four starts.
"We knew this was the toughest pool," Gatland added. "First up, it was about getting out of the pool, and we've achieved that goal. We've built a bit of momentum and confidence going into the quarter-finals. We feel like the squad is in good shape at the moment, but it's one step at a time.
"I think it's exciting that teams from the northern hemisphere have ended up on one side (of the draw), and the teams from the southern hemisphere on the other side."
Wales skipper Sam Warburton added: "We said we wanted to be ruthless from minute one to minute 80, and we put in a good performance throughout. Everybody put in a good shift. We played the game well, we played in the right areas and we are very pleased.
"That ruthlessness the coach talked about has been drilled into the boys. Not kicking it out at the end, but going for the tries, shows the ambition of this team."
Wales' 19-year-old wing George North was once again a star performer, scoring one try but creating numerous other opportunities through his pace and electrifying running. He was followed over the line by centre Jamie Roberts, who doubled his Wales try tally to four with two touchdowns, Roberts' midfield partner Scott Williams, Leigh Halfpenny, Lloyd Burns, Jonathan Davies, Lloyd Williams and Warburton.
North epitomised the mood in Wales' camp, claiming: "After today we've got more to prove and more to live up to. We have proved we are a team that can compete in this competition. We are over the moon with this win, and we will take it forward from here.
"It (North's Test career) has only been a short time, but I've loved every minute of it. Hopefully, that continues. But for now, I will just keep doing what I am doing and hopefully I will be on the team sheet."
Fly-half Rhys Priestland kept the scoreboard ticking over by booting 13 points, while Stephen Jones ensured all nine tries were converted by adding the extras to four of them when he went on.
"We've got a massive task next week, and hopefully we can bring the same intensity. We have a confident group and I think we back ourselves against any team we come up against."
Fiji will now have to qualify for the 2015 World Cup in England after finishing third in their group, and captain Netani Talei offered no excuses.
"It's upsetting, but at the end of the day we have to give respect to the Welsh boys. They deserved the win, they were hungry for it, so hats off to them," he said. "They profited from our mistakes and scored a lot of tries from them. We tried to spread them out wide and then back to the middle, but they read our attack very well."
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