Wales coach Warren Gatland

Wales coach Warren Gatland has been heavily quoted in recent days or weeks on the Six Nations and especially England. But on the launch day of the RBS 6 Nations Rugby World sat a few inches from the Wales coach and here is the result of that press conference. In Warren’s words (and some from Matthew Rees), without any spin or interpretation.

Warren Gatland on the Dylan Hartley furoreone of the original articles from the Daily Mail:

“I made a couple of comments that’s about it. This is my last day of press. I have been fined (not sure if he was joking?) for my comments so there is a self-imposed ban from doing the press from now on so make the most of it.”

Can comments have an effect on teams?

“Sometimes. I pride myself on giving an opinion or speaking the truth when I am asked a question. That is what I have done in the past. I don’t have to think again in the future whether what I might have said is the truth, so if I am being asked a question I have given an honest opinion or said what I think. Sometimes I have probably been a little bit guilty that I have gone to press conferences and I get…bored. Someone asks me an interesting question and I respond to it, don’t I?

“You end up doing most press in a week than rugby training. It is sometimes part of it.”

How have you developed in the last year?

WG: “The focus in November is that we wanted to put emphasis on our forward play. We went out there to take the southern hemisphere sides on up front and I thought we got a lot of confidence, a lot of success from doing that. We had a lot of key players injured in the backs and a number of those player are now back for selection which gives us more creativity, more depth to be able to choose from, and add to our game.

“We have a couple of injuries up front but we still go into the Championship playing with the confidence that our forward; second row, back row and front row can do well. We can compete with any team and we have players like Jamie Roberts, Shane Williams and Leigh Halfpenny back, and Jonathan Davies gives us a lot more depth in our backline that perhaps we didn’t have in the autumn.

“We can go into this campaign with a lot of confidence.

“Sometimes you look back…I have gone over the tapes from 2008 – and yes it was great we won the Grand Slam. But I honestly believe that as a team when I look at 2008 and last November…yes, we are not clinical at times or been accurate for 80 minutes but overall as a team now we are much better than we were then, in 2008.

“But we have got to get over the line. On a day if we do play for 80 minutes and we take the chances we create, we are good enough to beat any team in the world. But we haven’t always been clinical enough or accurate enough at the moment for our liking, so yes we have to keep working hard.”

England game – What’s at stake?

WG: “For us it is massive in terms of confidence. This competition is about confidence, building momentum so if you win the first couple of games you can win the Championship. I think a lot has been made. We as a team, as a coaching staff don’t feel we are too far away. The easiest thing for us in the last couple of years would have been to go and play lesser teams and you win by 20 or 30 points. And come away and say that is fantastic. The way we are learning is by playing the best teams in the world. We are playing New Zealand, South Africa and Australia – that’s how we feel we are getting better. The best example of that is when England won the World Cup in 2003. That is what they did under Clive. They built and got confidence and once they started cracking those teams they really got they got the mental self-belief to kick on as a team. We are just not quite there. I wouldn’t do it any different. It would be easy enough to take the pressure off us as coaches by going out and playing some of these easier teams, it would look nice on the scoreboard but deep down we would not be getting better as a team.

Scrum injuries

WG: “We have got to believe……Adam Jones is a big loss. Potentially you could argue that Paul James is a better scrummager than Gethin, his strength is around the field, and you have got to back whoever gets the nod at tight-head that they would be able to do a good enough job for us. If you watch the Ospreys v Toulon last week, Toulon really wanted to target the Ospreys at scrum time and the comments afterwards by Carl Hayman that was impressed and surprised by how hard the Ospreys scrum was. We can’t make a big issue of it, yes we have lost an important key player for us but it is a great chance for someone else to step in and do a job for us. If you start getting hung up on one area of the game it is going to affect your preparation in other areas. We have got to make sure and be confident that is going to be an area that is going to be strong.

REES on captaincy: “It is massive to captain the team against England in your own backyard. I captained Wales in the autumn series and it went pretty well so I have got to push on.

Gatland on England

“Those (injured) players are big losses particularly from a line out point of view. Lawes is an incredibly exciting player, very much the modern day second row. IN the autumn they worked hard on developing their game, they tried to be a bit more expansive. They didn’t start that well against the All Blacks, had a great performance against Australia and came up short in the end and were physically a little bit battered by South Africa. For us it is hard to gauge where they are at. We have looked at the South Africa performance, we felt we played particularly well against South Africa. Sixty odd per cent possession and territory we have taken to them so we can build on that and take some confidence of how much we felt South Africa dominated England particularly up front.

“They will be a bit more expansive, they have got a fantastic back three in Foden, Cueto and Ashton and they will be looking to use that to develop their game and perhaps they looked caught a little bit short by the way South Africa played and how direct South Africa were. It happens, you try and concentrate on developing one area and you potentially get exposed somewhere else. I have no doubt it is something they would have spoken about and worked really hard on this week and next week to get right for our game.”

The Roof

Gatland: I said to Martin Johnson ‘do you want the roof open or closed?’ he asked me what the weather conditions were going to be and I said I didn’t know at this stage. I didn’t get an answer but I presume given my comments on the English side they would probably like the roof open. They wanted it open two years ago so we expect they would want that. We both have to agree for it to be closed. If one says open then it is open. Really the away team makes the decision.”

REES – You are as good as your last game performance wise. As a team I thought we performed well in the autumn series. We have reviewed the autumn and there are thing you can take out of everything. ICAN’T HEAR REES HERE

Priorities to put right

“The key for us in this campaign is to be more clinical in terms of finishing off. We want to go out and play some rugby, we want to throw the ball out. There is an opportunity with the way the game is being refereed at the moment to have a bit of confidence to be expansive and not be afraid, if it is on, to move the ball from inside our own half. You have got to be a bit smart, you have got to out there and express yourselves, be creative and at times take some risks as well. That’s going to be the message to the players, let’s go out there and play some rugby.

“If it is pouring down with rain ideally you want the roof closed. Sometimes opposition teams feel that with the roof closed it is a bit more of a cauldron atmosphere, the crowd is a bit louder. It is a bit warmer when the roof is closed, I can tell you that, it is Martin’s prerogative – it doesn’t bother us either way but if it is pouring down with rain ideally and it was shut we could some decent rugby being played. In the future that question of the roof being closed could be one for the referees or the broadcasters to decide. We have got a facility there where we can close it and I perfectly respect whatever he (Johnno) wants to do because he has got to make the right decision for his team and I would be doing exactly the same.”

Shane Williams

Gats: “Shane has been a fantastic performer for Wales. He is a catalyst for us for a number of things. Fitness wise he is in good shape, he is fast, he feels sharp and he plays with confidence. I thought he looked sharp when he came on at the weekend. We don’t want him doing too much running at the moment we are working on speed and power and I couldn’t think of any better way than to reward Shane this year than with another Six Nations crown hopefully with him being fit and for us as a team performing well in the World Cup. He deserves it – the game needs someone like Shane Williams and with his stature being able to make it into the top level.”

James Hook:

“I spoke to James Hook and said ideally we would like him playing in Wales but let’s forget about clubs and Wales. He has still got a responsibility to himself and to his family and there are times for economic and financial reasons where you have got to make the best decision for you as a player – I understand and respect that. The offer was meant to be so good he couldn’t turn it down. You need to be aware of that. As long as he gets full release time……..if that doesn’t happen it could count against him for future selection as happened with some players playing in England who have not been released to us or available to us. James is fully aware of that and he is of opinion that the side he is going to is going to release him to be available to play for Wales.”