Gatland confident of bold World Cup showing

Cardiff (United Kingdom) (AFP) –


Warren Gatland believes Wales will go a "long way" at the Rugby World Cup and are capable of beating anyone to give him a winning farewell.

The 55-year-old New Zealander -- who will bring the curtain down on his 12 year reign after the tournament -- will announce his 31-man squad for the quadrennial showpiece in Japan on Sunday.

He was in upbeat form despite his final Test in Cardiff ending in a 22-17 defeat by Ireland -- the team he most likes to beat due his sacking as head coach in 2001 -- which also halted Wales's winning home streak dating back to November 2017 at 11.

Gatland -- who will go on to lead the Chiefs before taking a year off for a third stint as British and Irish Lions coach -- said he will have his strongest ever squad for his the third World Cup in charge of Wales.

"I think it's the best squad in terms of the depth we've got," he said,

"If we do pick up a few injuries like we did in 2015, I think we would be able to cope so much better now.

"The expectation from ourselves is that we will be very disappointed if we don't make the quarter-finals, and that's step one. Then you take every game as it comes."

- 'Half a dozen positions' -

Gatland, whose best showing is the 2011 semi-final defeat to France, said anything was possible if the team were both mentally and physically in perfect shape.

"I think we've massively over-achieved in what we've done in the last 12 years," said Gatland, who has guided Wales to three Six Nations Grand Slams including this year's edition.

"We are not finished yet. If we are mentally and physically right, we're capable of beating anyone in the world. I honestly believe we will go a long way at this World Cup."

Gatland, though, said there is a major doubt over second row Cory Hill, one of the key players from this year's Six Nations comeback triumph over England in February.

He has not played since then and could be the third senior plyer along with back rower Taulupe Faletau and fly-half Gareth Anscombe to be left behind due to injury.

"He has got a fracture in his leg," said Gatland of the 24-times capped lock.

"It is a very small fracture which could keep him out until game two or three (of the World Cup) so that will be a big discussion on whether we take him or not."

Gatland said there were six spots probably up for debate ahead of Sunday's announcement with some "having put their hand up" during a better second-half performance when inspired by replacement fly-half Rhys Patchell they came back from 22-3 down.

"Others we had a few questions answered. It was good from that point of view," said Gatland.

"We will sit down tonight and it will take a few hours to finalise the squad.

"There are probably half a dozen positions that are really up for debate. Apart from that, we are quite comfortable with 24 or 25 players."