Gatland still harbours All Blacks coaching role

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While he made himself unavailable for consideration in the latest coaching appointment round, it was because of the existing commitment he has as British & Irish Lions coach to South Africa in 2021.

 

Gatland (pictured with Rassie Erasmus) severed his 12-year link with Wales after the loss to the All Blacks in the playoff for third and fourth. But he did have some disappointments after the tournament.

 

In an interview with The Guardian, Gatland admitted that had Wales managed to beat South Africa in their semifinal at the Rugby World Cup, he would've gone into the final feeling Wales could beat England.

 

"There wasn't that fear factor against England. It would have been different if the All Blacks had won their semifinal.

 

"For some of the Welsh players the All Blacks are still on a pedestal because New Zealand's the one team we haven't beaten.

 

"But against England, psychologically, we would have been confident because the guys have had success and we had an effective gameplan. The results have been 50-50 and knowing you're capable of beating them makes a massive difference,"Gatland said.

 

Towards the end of their semifinal when Wales drew level at 16-16, Gatland felt Wales could win.

 

"In our semifinal South Africa kept taking three points to keep the scoreboard ticking over. But there are times when, with momentum, you're better off going for the scrum or the lineout.

 

"We got the try and it was 16-16 with six minutes to go. But then South Africa got a penalty. [Handre] Pollard kicked it and it wasn't to be. But I can't question the effort of our players. I likened it to a sponge. We squeezed every last drop out of Wales," he said.

 

That was something similar to what England had managed against the All Blacks.

 

"It was one of the best performances by England I've ever seen. They were outstanding. Controlled the game. Defended exceptionally well. Attacked well. It was pretty much the complete performance," Gatland said.

 

In making his comment that he doubted such a display could be repeated in the final by England, Gatland said what he meant by his remark was that in previous World Cups, the only team to have beaten the All Blacks and gone on to win the Cup was Australia.

 

"Emotion plays a massive part in big games. It's very difficult, at the highest level of sport, to be right on the edge emotionally and repeat that the following week," he said.

 

England did have a habit of losing games that mattered the most, something Gatland had commented on before.

 

Looking to the Lions tour, his fourth, he said three of those tours had been against the world champions.

 

"That adds to the importance of this tour. I thought about the Lions after this World Cup final. It would have been great if England had won from a northern hemisphere point of view. But, looking at it selfishly, would it have been good for the Lions? I think it would have added to the pressure," he said.

 

England's loss wasn't the worse from a Lions' perspective. There would be less pressure on selection, he said.

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