Cardiff - Whoever loses this weekend's "massive" Rugby World Cup
warm-up match between England and Ireland will suffer a major setback ahead of
the tournament, Wales coach Warren Gatland said on Monday.
Gatland's men, who won 16-10 away to Six Nations champions Ireland in their penultimate
warm-up contest last Saturday, have been drawn in the same World Cup pool as
main tournament hosts England and Australia.
But the group also includes Fiji, who knocked Wales out of the 2007 World
Cup in France, and Gatland said the Pacific Islanders could not be
"I am looking forward to the game this weekend between England and
Ireland, because whoever loses is going to lose two in a row which puts them
under a little bit of pressure," said Gatland, with England beaten 25-20
by France in Paris in their last warm-up encounter.
"It's a massive game for Ireland and Ireland," he added of the
Looking beyond Wales' group, Gatland said: "I've been impressed by
France. They looked a lot fitter and stronger than they have for recent
"They dominated for 60 minutes against England and gave them a few
headaches a couple of weeks in a row."
He added: "This (Wales') group potentially is going to come down to the
bounce of the ball and a refereeing decision, and that's the way it is.
"Everyone is talking about Wales, Australia and England but we should
not under-estimate Fiji, they are going to be an incredibly tough
proposition," the New Zealander said.
"They have a lot of players playing at the top level in France, they've
just won the Pacific Nations Cup and they have comfortably beaten Samoa --
that's not an easy feat."
England open the World Cup against Fiji at Twickenham on September 18 and
Gatland said: "If we go in there just thinking about the supposedly 'big
three' teams and under-estimate Fiji, someone is going to get caught with their
"That opening game for England is not going to be a walk in the park.
It's going to be full-on."
Meanwhile, Gatland, speaking after Wales' World Cup squad was announced on
Monday, warned captain Sam Warburton wasn't guaranteed a starting place after
rival openside flank Justin Tipuric's superb display against Ireland last
"We will pick what we think is the best team for each match we
play," said Gatland.
"If that means Sam isn't in the starting line-up so be it," added
the coach, with Warburton having missed the Dublin clash because of a shoulder
Tipuric was outstanding in all aspects against Ireland and Gatland said:
"I thought it was Justin's best performance in a Welsh jersey, not because
of the things we know he can do but because he did it up front.
"I have not seen him play that way and he was absolutely shattered in
the dressing room afterwards," added Gatland of the 26-year-old Ospreys
"I have seen that with Sam in the past, when Sam has been that
exhausted he hasn't been able to move for 30 minutes after a game.
"To have the quality of those two players at our disposal is
Warburton led Wales to the semi-finals of the 2011 World Cup only to be
controversially sent off in an agonising 9-8 loss to France in Auckland.
"Ever since he was offered the captaincy ... for the 2011 World Cup ...
it hasn't been about him but the team," said Gatland.
"If I say to him, 'look Sam, I won't pick you, I am picking Justin', he
will take that on the chin because the team comes first.
"That's the measure of the man and we are very lucky to have
Warburton added the win over Ireland boded well for Wales, who will complete
their warm-up campaign in Cardiff on Saturday against an Italy side thrashed
48-7 by Scotland in Edinburgh last weekend.
"It was a really impressive performance, and a massive confidence-boost
for us going in to the World Cup," he said.