History Beckons For Warren Gatland And Wales

Wales head coach Warren Gatland during a team announcement at the Stade de la Beaujoire in Nantes, France. Picture date: Thursday October 5, 2023. (Photo by David Davies/PA Images via Getty Images)

History Beckons For Warren Gatland And Wales

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By Gareth James

Warren Gatland prefers ancient history to modern history, which is why he reckons Wales will beat Georgia on Saturday.

The Wales coach has been talking about Wales’ final Pool C opponents at the Rugby World Cup, the Georgians.

A year ago, Georgia beat Wales in Cardiff, but Gatland isn’t much fussed by that.

He is, though, an admirer of the Georgians’ renowned fighting spirit and determination, which in an impromptu history lesson he likened to that of Welsh people when attacked by invading forces from the other side of the Severn Bridge.

“When the Vikings came to England they didn’t want to come across the border to fight the Welsh because of how mad they were, and how much they’d defend their own territory and space,” said Gatland.

“Georgia are very much like that if you look at their history. They have had their own challenges and battles and wars.

“We’re very aware of that and very aware of how proud they are as a people. They defend in a very similar way to Wales.”

A year ago, Levan Maisashvili’s side triumphed 13-12 in Cardiff to record one of their most famous victories, but that game hasn’t figured in Wales’ own build-up in Nantes.

“I only watched the first half of that game as I was at Twickenham for a match there,” added Gatland.

“At half-time, I was confident Wales would win that game and unfortunately everything came unstuck in the last 10 minutes.

“That can sometimes happen in games, but we don’t look back. We haven’t spoken about that at all, we’ve just been looking forward from our own perspective.

“We’re pleased to be in the position we are in at the moment, with the progress that has been made as a group, in the

The game in Nantes will be Gatland’s 23rd in charge of Wales at the World Cup and his 27th when you add in four games with Ireland at the 1999 tournament.

Having taken Wales to two semi-finals and a quarter-final in the past, he has once again guaranteed a knock-out place in France.

A clean sweep of the four games in Pool C would see Wales once again top their pool and set up a quarter final clash with the winner of the game between Argentina and Japan.

They need one point from the game against Georgia to finish top.

“I don’t think there is any secret to our success at the World Cup, it is just down to hard work. We have spoken in the past about the opportunity in World Cup years – the time you get with the players, the time you can put into things, and these guys have worked incredibly hard,” he added.

“We’ve been excellent in the way we have managed the players. We pretty much have a clean bill of health, in terms of no injuries, and I know that is hugely important for a country like Wales with such a small playing base.

“In the past, when we have got to quarter and semi-finals, injuries have had quite a significant impact on us. It was all about using the warm-up games for rotation, seeing where we were, seeing where the players were and for now it’s about getting better game to game.

“As you get to the business end of the tournament it’s about being prepared and hopefully having improved performances week on week.

“I couldn’t have asked for more in terms of what this group has put in.”

Someone else making a bit of personal history this weekend will be the former Wales centre, Jonathan Davies.

“Fox” as he is known will play his 200th game for the Scarlets in a pre-season friendly against the Dragons at Parc y Scarlets, 17 years after he first pulled on their shirt.

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