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Warren Gatland Laughs Off Claims He Is Certain To lead Wales To A Fifth World Cup

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By Paul Jones

Warren Gatland has laughed off suggestions his job is bombproof ahead of the World Cup.

The Wales coach smiled and suggested he only looks at the here and now after Welsh Rugby Union director of rugby Nigel Walker claimed Gatland would be kept in position regardless of what happened at next month’s tournament in France.

Gatland has a five-year contract, with a review clause which could be activated after the forthcoming tournament.

The New Zealander made it clear that he has yet to decide whether or not he would take up the option to lead Wales to what would be his fifth tournament in charge, having overseen those in 2011, 2015 and 2019 before returning for a second spell in January before the 2023 version.

When asked about Walker’s comments, Gatland said: “We’ll see how the World Cup goes!

“I am just focusing on the short term. I have never been a person who thinks long term too much in terms of my own personal situation.

“I am a great believer in what will be will be. I have already said the work this group have done and strides we have made, I think we can do something pretty special at this World Cup, and I honestly believe that.

“If that happens, then those other things take care of themselves.”

Earlier, Walker had said he was confident Wales will do well at the World Cup ansd that the question of considering the head coach’s position would not arise.

“That’s not going to happen,” said Walker.

“We feel we have one of the best coaches in the world, if not the best. I went out to Switzerland to watch the Welsh squad train and the transformation, the skill level, the fitness – all the measures you would use – were off the scale.

“I’m confident Wales will do well in the World Cup. Not that we’ll win by 50 points in the final. I’m confident we’ll do well.”

“The contract was a five-year contract. There is a clause but I cannot see any circumstances whereby we would invoke that clause.”

Gatland is eight months into his second stint as Wales head coach after replacing Wayne Pivac and has so far won two of his seven games in charge.

Wales complete their World Cup warm-up schedule on Saturday by tackling South Africa, and they will be without British and Irish Lions Liam Williams and Dan Biggar.

Both players had been selected to start the game in Cardiff, but have been withdrawn as a precautionary measure.

The WRU said that full-back Williams has a tight hamstring, with Biggar suffering from back irritation.

Cai Evans is promoted from the replacements’ bench to make his Test debut as Williams’ replacement, while Sam Costelow takes over from fly-half Biggar.

Gatland added: “Both of them, if we pushed them hard, could play on Saturday, but the decision was made there is no point taking a risk at this stage.

“If this was a World Cup semi-final, Dan Biggar would have been fine for the weekend.”

Forwards Dewi Lake and Taine Plumtree, who were injured during Wales’ narrow defeat against England at Twickenham last weekend, are on course to be available for the World Cup opener against Fiji in Bordeaux on September 10.

Saturday’s clash in Cardiff is a last chance for players to impress Gatland, who will announce his 33-strong World Cup squad within 48 hours of the final whistle.

“There is an opportunity for players on Saturday. We will come back as a coaching group after the game and finalise the squad,” Gatland said.

“We are confident that those players carrying injuries are going to be available for the first game against Fiji.

“We will get a pretty detailed injury update in terms of all the players in the squad, the ones carrying knocks and when they can return to full-time training and when they are available.

“Potentially, there may be one or two decisions, which has happened in the past, where we are still undecided and we might sleep on it and make a final decision potentially on the Sunday.

“Then it’s a matter of notifying the players and announcing the squad on Monday.”

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