Wales target World Cup quarter-final win over France to stop curtain falling on ‘incredible’ Warren Gatland era
- Every game could be Warren Gatland’s last in charge of Welsh national team
- He will be returning to New Zealand at conclusion of Rugby World Cup
- Players are desperate to stop curtain falling on Gatland era against France
- Flanker Josh Navidi said: ‘We want to give him the send-off he deserves’
The Wales players have one simple message as they target victory over France in the World Cup quarter-final on Sunday: Win it for Warren.
With head coach Gatland going back to New Zealand after the tournament, each game could be his last after 11 years in charge.
His squad of players – all bar Alun Wyn Jones having had him as their only Test coach – and staff are desperate to beat France to stop the curtain falling on the Gatland era.
Wales want to keep the Warren Gatland era going with victory over France on Sunday
‘He is not just an incredible rugby coach, he is an incredible person as well,’ said skills coach Neil Jenkins, one of only two assistants, along with Stephen Jones, who are staying next year.
‘He brings so much to this environment. It will be incredibly sad to see him go. It would be nice if we could give ourselves another fortnight in Japan for him.’
Josh Navidi, who owes his resurgent career to Gatland having been left in the cold between his first and second caps in 2013 and 2017, echoed Jenkins’ sentiments.
‘We want him to finish on a positive and give him the send-off he deserves,’ said the back-rower.
‘It speaks for itself, with the three Grand Slams and all the campaigns he’s been part of and what we’ve achieved as a nation.
‘He’s been there and done it so it gives us confidence. We know he can push us through the week and make sure we’re ready.’
Neil Jenkins described Gatland as ‘an incredible rugby coach and incredible person’
Josh Navidi wants to give a fitting send off, with Gatland heading back to New Zealand
Wales are set to bring back their big guns for Sunday’s game. Sportsmail understands Dan Biggar, Jonathan Davies, George North and Hadleigh Parkes will start in the backs, despite the latter missing Wednesday afternoon’s training session in Beppu.
Ken Owens explained why he thinks this highly experienced Wales side are so formidable under Gatland. ‘It is the confidence we have got in each other,’ said the 70-cap hooker.
‘Everybody is pretty comfortable with their role in the squad, on and off the field.
‘We’ve had good continuity in the squad over the last two years, which helps galvanise us. There is experience right across the squad in big games. Liam Williams has been successful in England, a lot of players have played in big games for their clubs.
Ken Owens thinks the big-game experience has helped Wales develop as a side
‘The more you play in the big games, the more you get used to them; the build-up, what is expected and how to deliver. The management prepare us well and there is no stone left unturned.’
Jenkins described Gatland’s ability to keep his head when all about him are losing theirs.
‘It’s probably us he has to calm down, the rest of the coaching staff,’ he said. ‘He’s been here for 11 years and whatever he does, everyone looks up to him. Gats is an incredibly smart rugby man.’
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