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Friday 9 December 2016

Warren Gatland: I won't be able to bring myself to support Australia in England game

Warren Gatland. Picture: David Jones/GETTY IMAGES
Warren Gatland. Picture: David Jones/GETTY IMAGES

Warren Gatland insists he will remain a neutral spectator this weekend – even if Australia hold Wales’ immediate World Cup destiny in their hands against England at Twickenham.

Wales overcame Fiji 23-13 in a bruising Cardiff contest to move to the top of Pool A, but a quarter-final place remains far from certain for Gatland’s men despite them winning their first three group games.

England beating Australia on Saturday night would throw the race for the two top spots in the pool wide open and probably leave Wales needing to avoid defeat in their final game against the Wallabies to make the last eight.

But an Australia win will send England out and guarantee Wales a place in the quarter-finals.

“It’s hard not to be entirely selfish on Saturday because Australia can do us a big favour,” Wales coach Gatland said. “We’d make the quarter-finals and it’s hard not to think that way.

“But it’s a bit hard for a Kiwi to be jumping up and cheering for the Aussies! So I think I’ll be quite neutral this weekend.”

Wales scored two first-half tries to build a 17-6 interval lead and appeared well set to match the bonus point England managed from their opening game against Fiji.

But the Pacific Islanders showed great tenacity in the second period and reduced the lead to four points when centre Vereniki Goneva rounded off a stunning 60-yard passing movement to score a converted try.

Two Dan Biggar penalties, however, got Wales over the line to keep the momentum going after their stunning triumph over England at Twickenham last weekend.

“It was a really tough physical encounter and I am absolutely delighted with the win,” Gatland said.

“Given that short turnaround we had to dig really deep and I thought the players did well.

Wales have been hit by serious injury both before and during the tournament, losing no less than five players until now and being forced to call up several replacements.

So Gatland was delighted his squad appeared to have emerged unscathed from their latest physical battle, with knocks to Dan Lydiate, Matthew Morgan and Biggar not thought to be serious.

“There’s a few battered bodies but we look OK at the moment,” Gatland said.

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