Gatland commits to Wales

(Rugby News Service) Tuesday 18 October 2011
Gatland commits to Wales
Warren Gatland says he has unfinished business with Wales

AUCKLAND, 18 Oct. - Warren Gatland has reaffirmed his commitment to coaching Wales until the end of his contract in 2015.

The New Zealand-born former All Black says all the talk of him returning home to a coaching position is flattering.

"I'll be honest, at some stage in your rugby career, as I'm a Kiwi, I'd like to come home and do a bit of coaching in New Zealand. But not at the moment and I have made that commitment to Wales," he said.

If Rugby World Cup 2011 is the last for the All Blacks coaching trio of Graham Henry, Steve Hansen and Wayne Smith, there will be gaps to fill and some say Gatland is an obvious choice after he guided a young Welsh team to the semi-finals for the first time since the inaugural tournament in 1987.

"We feel like we've shown a lot of character, we feel like we've played some great rugby since we've been here," he told a press conference on Tuesday.

Earned respect

"We'll leave here with our heads held high having earned a lot of respect."

Gatland also announced his strongest team available to play Australia in the battle for bronze at Eden Park on Friday.

He has made three changes to the side that lost to France in last weekend's semi-final.

The team will be captained by Gethin Jenkins in the absence of Sam Warburton, who was suspended for three matches for a tip tackle on France's Vincent Clerc.

Prop Paul James comes in for Adam Jones, who left the pitch 10 minutes into the semi-final with a calf injury.

Bradley Davies has been chosen in the second row ahead of Alun Wyn Jones, who moves to the bench.

All guns blazing

Ryan Jones joins the back row, replacing Warburton, with Toby Faletau shifting from number 8 to openside flanker.

It is uncertain whether the match will be 34-year-old Shane Williams's last in the red jersey.

"I'd love to be able to play at home and have the chance to have my family and friends there," he said. "But I really don't know, I'm just concerned about this game on Friday. After that we'll wait and see, but it is getting there. I'm not stringing you along, it is going to come."

It might not be the final they were hoping for but Wales will give the play-off their all.

"The highest we can get now is third so we'll go out all guns blazing," said flanker Danny Lydiate.

"We want to go out with a win, so it would make the flight a lot better on the way home."

RNS eg/gy/mr