Warren Gatland (Gallo)
London - Wales coach Warren Gatland on
Sunday blasted Rugby World Cup chiefs for creating a "group of hell"
that claimed England as the tournament's first big casualty.
The draw put Australia, England and Wales
into Pool A which became known as the 'Pool of Death' because only two teams
out of the heavyweights could reach the last eight.
As shockwaves from England's elimination
spread, Gatland said it was "ridiculous" that the group phrase draw
was made three years ago.
"We knew how tough this group was
going to be right from the start, and not just with England, Australia and
ourselves, because Fiji are a tough proposition as well," Gatland said.
"I think if Fiji had been in a couple
of other groups, they would have qualified for the quarter-finals as well. It
has been not just the group of death, but the group of hell, basically, for all
England became the first host World Cup
hosts to exit the tournament before the knockout phase after Saturday's 33-13
defeat by Australia at Twickenham. They also lost 28-25 to Wales.
Stuart Lancaster, the England coach, is now
under intense pressure. But Gatland suggested Lancaster had been the victim of
a premature draw.
"Everyone is making a thing about the
first home country to hold a World Cup to miss out on the quarter-finals, but
the stupid thing, as we all know, is why was the World Cup draw done three
years ago?," said Gatland.
"That's just ridiculous as far as I am
concerned. If they had followed the football model, then we wouldn't be in this
But the 'Pool of Death' would never have
come about if, shortly before the draw was made, Wales had not played Australia
outside of the official window for international matches.
Wales' defeat meant they dropped to ninth
in the world rankings, with the top eight sides all seeded for the draw.
Australia's win on Saturday meant Wales qualified
for the last eight as well and Gatland, who watched the match, said: "I
turned around and said to my wife that what happens in the next 20 minutes
changes people's lives, whether it is ours or people involved with
Lancaster was appointed England coach
following their quarter-final exit from the 2011 World Cup. They have since
finished second in Europe's Six Nations contest four years in a row.
Gatland said he sympathised with Lancaster.
"For what he has done when he took
over the job, in terms of the discipline he has instilled in that side and how
his players conduct themselves, I have a huge amount of respect for what he has
Wales return to Twickenham on Saturday to
play Australia in a match that will decide the pool winners. Top place could
provide an easier quarter-final against the Pool B runners-up, currently
Scotland, rather than likely winners South Africa.
The Wallabies have won their last 10 Tests
against Wales but Gatland said the way in which his injury-hit side had reached
the last eight was a warning to those who had written them off.
"There was always that belief in the
squad that we were good enough to qualify. Not that anyone believed us, but we
kept telling people how hard we worked," Gatland added.
"We kept saying we have been through
some pain, and we have coped brilliantly with the injuries that we have been
"A lot of people have written us off,
and we have demonstrated that character when we are under pressure."