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Alex Spink: Warren Gatland’s influence spells yet more danger to England

30 Sep | BY Betway | MIN READ TIME |
Alex Spink: Warren Gatland’s influence spells yet more danger to England

Five days on from Wales’ Twickenham triumph, the Mirror rugby correspondent believes their wily coach will ensure no slip ups against Fiji

They are so close to their idea of a perfect World Cup they can almost touch it.

Beat Fiji on Thursday, Australia win on Saturday and Wales book their quarter-final spot and eliminate England.

Three days from their rugby utopia and all of Wales is dreaming big.

What can possibly go wrong? Fiji are 10th in the world rankings, Warren Gatland’s team second, behind only New Zealand for goodness sake.

Sure they have picked up a few injuries – OK, make that a few dozen – but they have beaten England, the tournament hosts and second favourites.

Even with a patched up team they will have too much for Fiji.

Or so goes the theory.

You’ve heard it in the pub, on the street corner, on your radio and TV. Gatland certainly has.

Which is why he was restrained in his reaction to Wales’ epic victory over England.

Not on the touchline at the end, nor probably over a beer soon after, but the following day and ever since, for sure.

For all Wales’ on-field firepower, their greatest weapon remains Gatland. Few keep a firmer grip on reality than the wily Kiwi.

So while others bathed in the euphoric glow of victory over England, it sounded alarm bells in his head.

His first thought would not have been, ‘quarter-finals here we come,’ but ‘remember 2007.

Ah yes, the World Cup in France eight years ago and the crushing disappointment of Nantes where Wales lost 38-34 to Fiji and departed the tournament in the pool stages.

If that dark day seems a million miles from the joy currently bouncing off every corner of the Principality then you are not thinking like Gatland.

Which was why on Tuesday morning he welcomed his squad back onto the training field for the first time since their Twickenham triumph and gave them both barrels.

Or, to use his word, a “rocket”.

“I said to them we would look at the GPS numbers and the intensity of training,” he revealed. “If I see any body language that is not right then I will change you tomorrow.

“We have to put Saturday behind us. You have got to make sure that you are right after such a high. Sometimes the challenge is not the physical one but the mental one.”

Wales, who have chosen the pack which took on England, are 15-point favourites but they are back in action after a five-day turnaround whereas Fiji have not played for more than a week.

They have new players coming in and Toby Faletau and Dan Lydiate are both celebrating reaching the 50-cap milestone.

No question it is a banana skin, even though Fiji are without arguably their best two players in Nikola Matawalu and Nemani Nadolo.

But with home advantage and Gatland at the helm, Wales should have enough to get the job done.

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