Wales in 'good place' ahead of France quarter-final, says Gatland
KUMAMOTO – Wales coach Warren Gatland said the scrappy win over dogged Uruguay on Sunday was "not pretty" but it had put his team in a good place ahead of the quarter-final clash against France.
Wales topped Pool D with their 35-13 victory at Kumamoto Stadium and will return to Kyushu island next weekend to take on the undefeated French.
Pool D runners-up Australia will play England.
"It wasn't the prettiest tonight," Gatland told reporters after his side spurned four tries, including two from forward passes.
"We were poor at times, not clinical, too many turnovers in that first half and probably blew about four or five chances, but we showed a little bit of character in the second half.
"We’re in a good place and we’re building our momentum nicely.
"Talking to the medics, hopefully we’ll have everyone fit and ready for selection, the whole (squad of) 31."
Gatland said flyhalf Dan Biggar and linchpin centre Jonathan Davies would come back into the selection frame after being rested for Uruguay, while winger George North was recovering from a minor ankle problem.
France, who knocked Wales out of the semi-finals of the 2011 World Cup in New Zealand, were unable to play their final Pool C clash against England because it was cancelled due to Typhoon Hagibis.
Gatland said he felt that the extra rest might give France an edge in their quarter-final in Oita next Sunday.
"They're probably at a little bit of an advantage not having that game against England so they're probably a little bit fresher than we'll be," he said.
"But at least from our point of view we feel battle-hardened.
"It’s going to be a tough, physical game. We seem to play better against the better sides. We can’t take that for granted we’ve got to focus and it’s going to be a heck of a game."
Wales have not had the rub of the green at the last two tournaments, pipped 9-8 by France in the 2011 semi-finals after Sam Warburton was red carded early.
They suffered a horror run of injuries to fall in the quarter-finals to South Africa four years ago in England.
Gatland said the 2015 experience had set them on a mission to build depth to withstand the attrition of a long tournament in Japan.
"We feel like we've done that," he said.
"To be able to go into a quarter-final knowing that you've got 31 players to be able to be fit and training puts us in a pretty good position than what we had in 2015."Reuters