Gatland: ‘Pool of death’ won’t come down to points

Wales coach Warren Gatland

Wales coach Warren Gatland says that the Rugby World Cup’s “pool of death”
will not be decided on points difference but on wins.

Gatland’s Wales team have been drawn alongside hosts England, double World
Cup winners Australia, dark horses Fiji and minnows Uruguay.

Only two teams can progress to the quarter finals which makes it the most difficult
pool in world cup history as two teams from four ranked in the top 10 in the
world will not make it out of the pool.

“You don’t look too far ahead, you look at one game at a time,” insisted
Gatland, who was in charge of Wales who lost to France at the semi-final stage in the
last World Cup in New Zealand four years ago.

“Everyone’s talking about the pool may be decided on points difference.
I don’t think it will be decided on points difference.

“I think we’re up against it in that regard given the experience we had
in the Six Nations,” he said in reference to the staggered final round
of matches last season that saw Wales rack up a big score against Italy before
Ireland ran away with the title in full knowledge of what they had to score
against Scotland.

Wales kick off their campaign against Uruguay at the Millennium Stadium on
Saturday, Gatland stressing that the emphasis was on quality execution.

“Other teams are going to know the permutations before we do, so it’s
about making sure we go and have a good performance on the weekend and then
concentrate on that and really focus on England, that’s massive for us,”
the New Zealander said.

“Other teams are going to be at much more of an advantage than we will
going into the last couple of days, potentially the last round of games, to
be able to potentially take advantage if there does come a points differential

Gatland added: “I believe this is going to be the closest World Cup that
we’ve potentially had.”

“There are a number of teams that need a bit of luck, get through your
pool stages and everyone there has got an opportunity. We found that in 2011,
getting through the pool stages to the quarter-finals, and we know how close
we came to making the final.

“I think there are seven or eight teams that would fancy themselves that,
through to the quarter-finals, everything’s to play for.”

Gatland added that the showing by the northern hemisphere teams against their
southern hemisphere counterparts in last season’s autumn series, allied by some
expansive rugby in the Six Nations was “a real positive”.

But the former hooker said he didn’t have an optimal score in his head for
the Uruguay match.

“I don’t care about the score, I just want to play well and win,”
he said, adding that prop Samson Lee and full-back Liam Williams would both
get run-outs after slowly coming back from injury.

“They need game time, but probably not 80 minutes,” he said. “It’s
about looking after potentially those two players and a couple of other players
that may be involved who we have to think about for the following week and particularly
the Fiji week.

“It’s a bit of mix and match about putting a strong team out, still thinking
about potential points difference and going out there and giving a good performance
and trying to get as many points as we possibly can.

“That’s not disrespecting Uruguay in any way because they’re going to
be tough, it’s their first game and they’re going to bring everything to the
table as well.”

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