Rugby World Cup 2011: Gatland says pain drives Wales

Warren Gatland congratulates Sam Warburton
Warren Gatland congratulates Sam Warburton after Wales beat Ireland

Coach Warren Gatland says the pain Wales' players suffered in their preparations has helped put them one game away from a World Cup final.

Wales' 22-10 quarter-final win over Ireland has set up a semi-final against France in Auckland.

Gatland says a pre-tournament regime including two harsh stints at a Polish training camp is why they are the only Home Nations team in the last four.

"These guys went through some pain and that brings a team together," he said.

"I don't think any team has worked as hard as we have in the last four or five months and the pre-season in terms of the work that was done," said Gatland.

"We got up at 0500 to do training sessions, we had guys throwing up doing sand stuff and training four or five times a day.

"That galvanises a team and I think it's starting to come out with the youngsters expressing themselves, having no fear and a nice mix with some older players.

Gatland also credited the effects of being in New Zealand, away from the pressure of home support.

He believes relatively inexperienced players such as captain Sam Warburton, 23, George North, 19, Rhys Priestland, 24, Toby Faletau, 20, Dan Lydiate, 23, Bradley Davies, 24 and Scott Williams, 21, are unaffected by past trials and tribulations.

"There's no fear factor," said Gatland. "I think the great thing is we're in New Zealand.

"We're not in the bubble of Wales so we're not listening to the pundits every day, we're not listening to any negativity that potentially sometimes comes out of Wales.

"Just being here has been great so the guys just get on with it."

"I feel like the balance is the best we've ever had with some pace, we've got some go forward, we've got loosies [back-row forwards] who can carry, some experience up front as well."

And amid the hope and expectations Wales and their fans share, Gatland is confident his players can keep their emotions in check ahead of the encounter with France.

"I don't think it's going to be hard at all [to keep our feet on the floor]," said Gatland.

"I mean the boys have been outstanding.

"We've had a few occasions where we've just stayed in the hotel and a couple of occasions where the boys have been able to go out for an hour or so and we've had curfews and a bit of choir practise.

"Well, they've been brilliant ambassadors and ... Huw Bennett, before the game [against Ireland] said 'You're in dream land at the moment and you've got an opportunity so why would you want to stuff it up by doing anything crazy off the field'?"

Assistant coach Robert Howley says the crucial moment in a campaign that has seen them travel to Auckland for the final four came during half-time against Samoa in Pool D when they trailed 10-6.

"Auckland's a pretty famous place in rugby terms and who would've thought five months ago this Welsh side would be in Auckland?

"We're savouring the moment about last night, but we're preparing meticulously for the event which occurs on Saturday.

"We're on a journey or a dream and we want that journey and dream to continue.

"A huge psychological hurdle for us was half-time against Samoa, being 10-6 down.

"As we said at the time, many a Welsh side would have lost that game. We had the resilience and the fortitude to come out.

"That was a huge game for us. Last night was another hurdle and we've got another big hurdle on the weekend."


Forwards: (16)

Props: Ryan Bevington, Adam Jones, Paul James (all Ospreys), Gethin Jenkins (Blues), Craig Mitchell (Exeter), Hookers: Huw Bennett (Ospreys), Lloyd Burns (Dragons), Ken Owens (Scarlets). Locks: Luke Charteris (Dragons), Bradley Davies (Blues), Alun Wyn Jones (Ospreys). Back-rows: Toby Faletau (Dragons), Ryan Jones (Ospreys), Danny Lydiate (Dragons), Andy Powell (Sale Sharks), Sam Warburton (Blues, capt).

Backs: (14)

Full-backs/wings: Lee Byrne (Clermont Auvergne), Aled Brew (Dragons), Leigh Halfpenny (Blues), George North (Scarlets), Shane Williams (Ospreys). Centres: Jonathan Davies (Scarlets), Jamie Roberts (Blues),Scott Williams (Scarlets). Fly-halves: James Hook (Perpignan), Stephen Jones, Rhys Priestland (both Scarlets), Scrum-halves: Tavis Knoyle (Scarlets), Michael Phillips (Bayonne), Lloyd Williams (Blues).

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