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Tuesday, April 23, 2024

WAL team announcement (v POR): head coach Gatland, Lake, Tshiunza, Grady, Lydiate

NICE – Comments from Wales head coach Warren Gatland, captain Dewi Lake, second-row Christ Tshiunza, centre Mason Grady and flanker Dan Lydiate ahead of their Pool C match against Portugal on Saturday.

Warren Gatland, head coach

On making 13 changes to the team:

“It is just because is is a six-day turnaround.

“The big part of that is that it gives everyone an opportunity. I think there’s been a bit of talk about Henry Thomas, he’s got a tight hamstring so we decided not to risk him in this game.”

On eradicating ‘the dumb decisions’ he said the team made in victory over Fiji:

“From experience really, it’s a learning process. I thought we were outstanding in that first 60 minutes, the game plan had worked really well and then we came under pressure in that last 15, 10 minutes.

“It’s just making sure we learn from that, but we’ve got to be honest in terms of the way that we address the situation, some penalties that we had given away – offside penalties in our 22 – and just making sure we move forward and learn from it.”

On Gareth Anscombe at fly-half:

“Gareth gets an opportunity. We know in the past when he has started for Wales, the success record he has had as a number 10 has been excellent.

“He hasn’t had a lot of rugby, he picked up a thumb injury in Turkey. He’s recovered from that, he’s back in training, looking sharp. I’m looking forward to seeing him out there on Saturday.”

On facing Portugal:

“They are kind of a similar version of Fiji, they play a lot of rugby, they’ve got some exciting players, they like to move the ball around, so we’ve kind of prepared almost in the same way we prepared against Fiji.

“I thought from a neutral [point of view] last week if you were watching the games, it was probably the most exciting game of the weekend.

“It wasn’t great being a coach sitting in the box in the last 10 minutes I can promise you that, but hopefully we can produce another great game of rugby.”

On Welsh hopes at this Rugby World Cup:

“For us it’s about one game at a time, we’ve always been confident in the past about World Cups and the opportunity to get the team together for an extended period and we think that we have done well in previous World Cups and would like to get to a final of a World Cup.

“I stated beforehand ‘don’t write us off’, that this team is capable of doing something special and I still believe that.

“Part of the key themes and key message before this World Cup was make sure we’re a bloody hard team to beat and if we’re a hard team to beat, then things can happen for you.

“You get a group of players working for each other, putting that jersey on, that passion about playing for their country, for Wales. They recognise the history, what it means to the fans, the public and the family to represent your country.”

Dewi Lake, captain and hooker

On captaining Wales at a Rugby World Cup:

“It’s quite tough to take in and I don’t think it will really sink in until probably post-World Cup, just because there is so much focus on preparing for the week and getting ready for games and then playing those games and then all of a sudden you’ve got five days until the next game.

“But it’s incredible to be here representing the country and leading the boys out at the weekend with the experience we’ve got in the squad. It’s an honour.”

Christ Tshiunza, second-row

On making his Rugby World Cup debut:

“It is different, the amount of prep we have done, I have never done anything like that in my career. It makes you realise how big a tournament this is, and how serious it is, and how seriously Wales are taking this tournament as well.”

On playing at second-row with his Exeter club-mate Dafydd Jenkins:

“It is still a bit weird. We are room-mates as well, and sometimes we just like lay in bed and look over at each other and say ‘What are we doing here? To be 20 years old, what have we done to deserve this?’

“It is still very surreal at the moment, but after this tournament we will look back and be glad we did it together.”

On competing at a Rugby World Cup having been born in Democratic Republic of Congo:

“It is very surreal, considering in 2010 I didn’t even know what rugby was. Four years ago I was saying I would love to go to the next World Cup. I feel like I am living a dream at the moment, so after all of this we’ll look back and think ‘wow, that was really good’.

On whether his family in Wales and DRC are aware of rugby:

“Yeah, they haven’t got a clue! Even my family that come to the current games now, they haven’t got a clue, they are like ‘where’s Christ, where’s Christ? Oh, good job, you did something well today’. They don’t know the rules but I am glad they can come and support.”

On competing as a teenager in athletics:

“At the time when you are younger you don’t realise how little things like that shape you as a player later on. Stuff like high jumps, I didn’t know that was going to help me with my line-out, because I wasn’t playing rugby properly at the time. Throughout the years you look back and all that explosive line-out stuff maybe comes from the little stuff I did when I was younger. You don’t realise that.

“It is what I say to boys my age, that haven’t really kicked on. Everything they are doing now and everything they did a few years ago is going to help them down the line, they just don’t know it yet.”

On what he will feel singing the Welsh national anthem on Saturday:

“I started playing rugby a bit later on, in school, and if it wasn’t for the people I met in school, I probably wouldn’t be here now. When I sing the anthem I’ll think about the people who helped me along the way, my school friends I started playing with, my school coach Steve Williams, he took me under his wing. I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for those people.”

Mason Grady, centre

On talking with team-mates a year ago about going to a Rugby World Cup:

“I remember speaking with the boys and saying it would be class if we could go to the next World Cup. It was a long shot because it was only Christ [Tshiunza] who had his cap at that time, and from there it has spiralled out of proportion and we have got our first caps.”

Dan Lydiate, flanker

On having young players around the squad:

“It goes so quick. I remember in 2011 going to my first World Cup and here we are 12 years later and it’s gone in the blink of an eye. The enthusiasm they bring and their work ethic is brilliant.

“There will be a lot of nerves for these boys but excitement as well. They have got massive futures ahead of them. The advice I’d give them is try to enjoy it as sometimes you get so focussed on doing your job, you don’t always get the chance to appreciate where you are.”

On if surprised being at Rugby World Cup having had injuries:

“I am probably more appreciative and chuffed that I got the opportunity. In the pre-season camps we had one-on-ones with the coaches and Warren told me I probably won’t be at the next World Cup. I told him I’d come as a water-boy.

“It’s just knowing that you’d given everything, not thinking in years to come i’f only I’d tried a bit harder’.

“It’s my third World Cup and I’m really chuffed to be here, just looking forward to getting on the grass on Saturday.”

On how different his body will be after a game compared to 12 years ago:

“I will be a sore man. But I was a sore man when I was 23 as well. If I have done my job right I should be expected to be quite sore on a Sunday or Monday after a test match.

“You feel the bumps a bit more, the older you get. It’s part of the gig, it’s what you signed up for. If you love something you keep going as long as you can.

“Four years ago I wasn’t selected for the World Cup. You think is your time done then, but you just keep your head down and keep cracking on.”

On Portugal:

“You have to respect every team you play at a Rugby World Cup. Portugal didn’t play last week so they will be chomping at the bit to get stuck into us.”


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