Gatland piles pressure on England, Ireland

2015-08-31 15:44
Warren Gatland (AFP)

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 under-estimated.

"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 Twickenham clash."

Looking beyond Wales' group, Gatland said: "I've been impressed by France. They looked a lot fitter and stronger than they have for recent campaigns.

"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 pants down.

"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 weekend.

"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 injury.

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 backrow.

"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 great."

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 that."

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.

Read more on:    wales  |  rwc 2015  |  warren gatland  |  rugby

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