England may have already played their final – Gatland
The Wales coached fired a pointed remark towards England after losing out to South Africa.
Warren Gatland questioned whether England might have played their World Cup final a game early as Welsh interest in the Webb Ellis Trophy ended in Yokohama.
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Gatland declared Wales would depart Japan with their pride and reputation intact despite an ugly 19-16 last-four defeat by South Africa that means they will contest the third place play-off against New Zealand on Friday.
But the Kiwi signed off his last meaningful match as head coach with a pointed remark about England’s stunning 19-7 victory over New Zealand 24 hours earlier that was masterminded by his old sparring partner Eddie Jones.
“We have seen in previous World Cups that teams sometimes play their final in semi-finals and don’t always turn up for a final,” Gatland said.
“So it will be interesting to see how England are next week and it could be a good game.
“We have another game to play against the All Blacks. The dream was that my first game was in charge of Wales was against England and so the last would be against them as well, but it was not to be.”
South Africa prevailed through four penalties from Handre Pollard, who also converted Damian de Allende’s powerful try that effectively broke Wales’ resistance.
“South Africa have the physicality to match England. I thought England were outstanding, but South Africa have a very good chance,” Gatland added.
We have seen in previous World Cups that teams sometimes play their final in semi-finals and don't always turn up for a final Warren Gatland
“They might have to be a bit more expansive in the way they want to play. They had a pretty simple game plan against us in terms of the scrums and box kicking from Faf De Klerk and Pollard.
“It was very effective and for them it was about making the final and doing whatever it took to do that. It was a tough encounter. We knew it was going to be an arm wrestle and we stayed in that arm wrestle.
“I thought there was a momentum shift until the last four or five minutes and we started to get going, but unfortunately we were penalised and the game got away from us.
“I am not taking away from South Africa and I thought they played really well. They were willing to take us on up front.
“I am very proud of the boys in never giving up. With a little bit of luck and a bounce of the ball it might have been different.
“We are very disappointed but I am incredibly proud of what we have achieved in this World Cup and what this group of players have done. We can hold our heads held high and leave Japan with a lot of respect.”
South Africa reached the final for the third time where they will play England in a repeat of the 2007 showpiece when they prevailed 15-6 to lift the Webb Ellis Trophy for the second time.
“It was nerve-racking at the end and I must say that losing the previous four matches against them it could have gone their way again,” coach Rassie Erasmus said.
“I have so much respect for Wales, for their coach. I thought those last few minutes they might pull it through again and I think there was a little bit of luck on our side.
“I’m proud of our guys but also proud to win against a team like Wales because they are really a class outfit.
“We’re in the final of a World Cup so that’s some respect, but we’re only halfway there. We would love to win the World Cup.
“We play a class England team in the final now but we’ve really got a chance and we might go all the way, you never know.”