Davies pleads with Wales players to give Gatland a send-off to remember

Head coach's 12-year reign will end in Friday's bronze final against New Zealand - a team Wales have not beaten since 1953.

TOKYO, 28 Oct - Jonathan Davies has urged Wales players to bid farewell to Warren Gatland by delivering him victory over his native New Zealand, the only team he has not beaten as Welsh coach.

Gatland will end his 12-year reign in Friday's bronze final against the All Blacks at Tokyo Stadium then return to New Zealand to take charge of the Chiefs.

Centre Davies saw Wales's hopes of reaching the World Cup final for the first time end with Sunday's 19-16 defeat by South Africa, when fly-half Handre Pollard kicked the winning penalty with five minutes left.

But it is asking a lot for the injury-ravaged squad to end a 66-year losing streak against the All Blacks, who will be smarting from their semi-final defeat by England.

"A World Cup comes every four years, it is up there with the pinnacle and to get an opportunity to play in a semi-final was something very special," said Davies.

"It's an achievement for everyone in this squad and now it's about making sure we come together, dust ourselves off and look forward to playing for a bronze medal.

"This squad is never going to be the same again, the coaching staff, the players. This is a special group. We have got to earn that right to hopefully get a bronze medal from the end of it."

Gatland and defence coaches Shaun Edwards and Robin McBryde are leaving after the tournament, as is attack coach Rob Howley, who had to return to Wales before their opening game due to a World Rugby investigation into betting irregularities.

Fellow Kiwi Wayne Pivac, pictured, will take over as head coach with attack coach Stephen Jones, who flew out to join up with the squad early following Howley's departure.

Gatland, who will take charge of the British and Irish Lions tour to South Africa in 2021 as well as coaching the Chiefs, led Wales to three Grand Slams, including this year, above. He was  appointed after their World Cup exit in the group stage in 2007 after defeat by Fiji.

In the three Rugby World Cups since, Wales have reached the semi-finals twice – losing at RWC 2011 and RWC 2019 by a combined total of four points – and the quarter-finals in 2015 when South Africa triumphed with a late try.

"For us to go out there and expect to win games is down to Gats," said Davies. "We started off when he first came in punching above our weight but now we feel we belong in the top flight of world rugby.

"He has brought that edge to us so it was no surprise for us to be playing a semi-final. Losing is never good, but what was on the line was a chance to make history and unfortunately we came up second best."

Gatland will be forced to make several changes to his starting team as he takes his leave against the All Blacks in the game neither team wanted.

Davies returned against the Springboks despite a knee injury that kept him out of the quarter-final, and fellow centre Hadleigh Parkes has been playing with a broken bone in his wrist and a shoulder problem.

Prop Tomas Francis (shoulder) and wing George North (hamstring) went off in the closing minutes of the first-half in Yokohama on Sunday, joining full-back Liam Williams (ankle) and back-row forward Josh Navidi (hamstring) who had their World Cup campaigns ended last week.

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