Adieux to Hansen, Gatland in dreaded World Cup play-off

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Tokyo (AFP)

Highly respected Kiwi coaches Steve Hansen and Warren Gatland will bow out of international rugby after Friday's third-place play-off, a game the latter joked could have been settled by a drinking game.

The semi-finals saw Hansen's All Blacks lose 19-7 to England while Gatland's Wales went down 19-16 to South Africa, plunging them into the dreaded bronze medal match.

"I think Steve Tew (New Zealand Rugby Union chief executive) made a joke to Martyn Phillips (Welsh Rugby Union chief executive) that both teams should have a boat race and we could settle it that way," Gatland joked in reference to a speed-drinking game.

"I can see the relevance in that."

Both sides have rung the changes for Friday's encounter, Hansen aiming a cheeky dig at Wales when he said the play-off would be like a final for the Six Nations champions.

"This is the first time I've had to do this," said Hansen, with the All Blacks having won 31 of their 34 meetings with Wales, last losing in 1953.

"A lot of people might be saying there's not a lot on it and they could throw the ball around.

"I think there is a lot on it. For them it would be like winning the World Cup if they win this one, maybe."

Hansen will bow out as New Zealand coach after 107 matches in charge, with only 10 defeats to date.

His successes include the 2015 World Cup, six Rugby Championships and a perfect eight from eight in the Bledisloe Cup, the annual series against Australia.

- 'Leave a legacy' -

"I don't want to go into what I'm going to miss," said Hansen, who was coach of Wales the last time the teams faced each other at the World Cup, in 2003.

Gatland said that what Hansen had achieved with New Zealand was "absolutely outstanding".

"There is no doubt he'll leave a legacy behind in terms of what he's achieved as an All Black coach," he said.

"Very much like me, he started in Wales and learned a lot and I've learned a lot, too, from my time as an international coach... there is no doubt Steve has left a massive impression on New Zealand rugby and he'll be a big loss."

Gatland, who made nine changes to his side, took over Wales in late 2007, going on to win four Six Nations Championships and also reaching the semi-finals of the 2011 World Cup.

In 150 Test matches since Gatland's appointment as head coach, Wales have won 85, lost 63 and drawn twice.

But Gatland has lost all 11 previous Test encounters with his native New Zealand.

"They are disappointed not to be in the final, but have the chance to create a little bit of history against the All Blacks. It has been a long time, 66 years, not to beat a side," he said, referring to Wales' last win against New Zealand, in Cardiff in 1953.

"We have had success against every other nation. The All Blacks have been that elusive team we have not been able to conquer.

"There is a lot at stake, even though both teams are disappointed they are not involved in the big game. There is definitely something at stake -- a lot of pride -- and a victory for us would be pretty special."