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Warren Gatland supports Stuart Lancaster amid 'assassination by media'

Published 08/10/2015

Warren Gatland has named his Wales team for Saturday's World Cup Pool A decider against Australia at Twickenham
Warren Gatland has named his Wales team for Saturday's World Cup Pool A decider against Australia at Twickenham

Wales boss Warren Gatland has pointed to "assassination by the media" during a week of damaging fall-out from England's failed World Cup campaign.

And Gatland revealed that he has had contact with under-fire England head coach Stuart Lancaster, when he offered his support.

Host nation England crashed out of the tournament last weekend after just three games and 16 days following a crushing 33-13 loss to Australia, who are Wales' opponents in a Pool A decider at Twickenham on Saturday.

"I think there has been a bit of assassination by the media, really," Gatland said.

England skipper Chris Robshaw rejected a late, potentially equalising penalty chance in favour of an attacking lineout when Wales won 28-25 at Twickenham 12 days ago.

"It's one kick," Gatland added. " If they had potentially taken those three points, well, I don't think all this would have been the same.

"I rang Stuart during the week and left a message, and he texted me back and said he appreciated the support.

"At the end of the day, I said to him I gave him a call to give him that support and just hope he's okay, and more importantly, him and his family. To me, that's more important than the rugby.

"At the end of the day, we are all in this together, aren't we? We all understand the pressures of professional sport and what you have to deal with."

Gatland's name has been mentioned among possible successors to Lancaster if he departs, but when asked about media speculation on Thursday linking him with England, the New Zealander said: "I don't think they can afford me!"

While England finalise preparations for a dead-rubber game against Uruguay in Manchester on Saturday night, Wales know that victory over Australia - a feat they last managed in 2008 - would secure a quarter-final against Scotland or Japan.

A win for the Wallabies, though, and Wales will find themselves facing twice world champions South Africa in the last eight next week.

"We are desperate to win this game, as win this group and potentially your road through to quarters, semis and final is a little bit easier than the the other side of the draw," Gatland added.

"We are desperate to finish off well and win this group, and hopefully give ourselves potentially a second seed team in the quarter-finals.

"The last five times against Australia there has been a score in it. We've been ahead in games and not been able to finish it off.

"You learn from that, and experience comes from that and it showed in the autumn against South Africa. We closed that game down, and were brilliant in the last 15 minutes against England, coming from behind and showing maturity to close that game down."

Gatland has made six changes to his team, with a first Test start for New Zealand-born Gareth Anscombe, who features at full-back, while Liam Williams returns after concussion on the wing and George North moves to outside centre as Jamie Roberts' midfield partner.

Elsewhere, prop Paul James returns from injury and replaces Gethin Jenkins, Samson Lee wears the number three shirt, Luke Charteris features at lock and skipper Sam Warburton moves to blindside flanker, with openside Justin Tipuric handed a start.

Reflecting on North's switch, Gatland said: "The last time they (North and Roberts) played together was against Australia. It gives us that footwork and physical presence in midfield.

"I think eventually, that is where he (North) will end up as he gets a bit older, potentially from wing into the midfield. He has trained well there and looks sharp.

"It is two exciting back lines, and I said to our players there is an opportunity to go out there and see if we can look at some opportunities that put Australia under pressure. They're a good defensive unit and incredibly strong on attack, but we think there's some opportunities to attack as well."

And Gatland paid tribute to his coaching opposite number on Saturday, Michael Cheika, who has moulded Australia into serious World Cup challengers.

"What he did with Leinster, putting structure and discipline in, and he was incredibly successful. He did the same with the Waratahs, and to me, it looks like he has done the same with the Australia team," Gatland added.

"They are incredibly talented players that know what they are doing.

"They've got some unity and some discipline in that side, and I think that is what they needed. That is what he is very good at doing.

"He's straight up, he's honest, and I think the Australians respect and appreciate that approach the way that he coaches. He has done a fantastic job with them, and he's a world-class coach."

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