'It hurts still' - Wales out to avenge 2011 World Cup loss to France
Kumamoto (Japan) (AFP) –
Coach Warren Gatland is looking to Wales' Rugby World Cup quarter-final against France to erase the pain of their nailbiting one-point loss eight years ago in the semi-final.
"It hurts still," he said of the epic 2011 game, when Wales lost captain Sam Warburton to a red card in the 17th minute and lost 9-8.
With 14 men in a World Cup semi-final, "you expect to lose by 20-30 points and we hung in that game right to the end and had a chance to win it", Gatland said.
France were up 9-3 when Wales scored the game's only try midway through the second half to close the gap to one point.
Stephen Jones, now an assistant coach with Gatland, missed the conversion while Leigh Halfpenny fell just short with a long-range penalty at the death.
"To lose that game 9-8 was pretty disappointing but showed to me what this team is all about. They never give up," said Gatland.
Despite a reported player revolt and losing two pool games, France went on to narrowly lose the 2011 final 8-7 to New Zealand.
And while Wales have had the upper hand in Six Nations matches recently, Gatland said Les Bleus should not be dismissed.
"They're traditionally a tournament team. At World Cups, when everyone writes them off, they seem to be able to produce a performance that no one expects," he said.
"It's going to be a tough, physical game and we're looking forward to that challenge. We seem to play better against the better sides."
Wales confirmed their quarter-final match-up with France by topping Pool D after a scrappy 35-13 win over Uruguay in Kumamoto on Sunday, finishing the group phase unbeaten for the first time since 1987.
France were also unbeaten in Pool C but finished second behind England on bonus points, with their match cancelled because of Typhoon Hagibis.
"We're in a good place and building momentum... it's going to be a heck of a game," Gatland said.
However, he said he admitted he was "not too happy" with the high number of turnovers and forward passes which saw his team squander several scoring opportunities against the minnows Uruguay.
Wales struggled to a 7-6 lead at half-time and three late tries flattered them slightly on the scoreboard.
"The message at half-time was we had a lot of territory and possession and probably forced a little too much and tried to play too much rugby," he said.
© 2019 AFP