Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 20 September 2014

Gatland salutes Welsh wonders

Sam Warburton (left) and Warren Gatland

Warren Gatland hailed his "fantastic ambassadors" after a stunning quarter-final victory over Ireland kept Wales firmly on course for World Cup glory.

Wales never trailed in a gripping last-eight encounter, and although Ireland recovered from an interval deficit to tie the game at 10-10, tries from scrum-half Mike Phillips and centre Jonathan Davies set up a semi-final against France next Saturday.

"The boys knew that we were either going home on Monday or we were here until the end of the tournament," Gatland said. "I spoke to the boys before the game and said they had been fantastic ambassadors. They have worked so hard on and off the pitch - but we were not ready to go home yet."

He added: "We know we are in good shape physically. We've felt we have got better and better as this competition has gone on.

"I don't want to sound arrogant at all, but we were very confident before the game that we were capable of winning reasonably comfortably.

"I do not think any team has worked as hard as we have in the last four or five months. Those guys went through some pain (during the World Cup build-up), and when you do that it brings guys together and it galvanises a team.

"I feel that the balance in the team is the best we have ever had."

Once again, Wales' exciting crop of young players delivered when it mattered, and Gatland added: "There is no fear factor.

"We are in New Zealand and not in the bubble of Wales and listening to the pundits every day or any negativity that sometimes comes out of Wales. The guys just get on with it.

"We were in a very tough pool, and to come out of it probably helped put us in very good stead for a quarter-final and hopefully a semi-final."

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