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Emotional Gatland urges Wales to power ahead after reign ends with loss to rampant All Blacks

New Zealand 40-17 Wales

Farewell: Wales coach Warren Gatland salutes the fans after
bronze final at Tokyo Stadium yesterday
Farewell: Wales coach Warren Gatland salutes the fans after bronze final at Tokyo Stadium yesterday
Jonathan Bradley

By Jonathan Bradley

Warren Gatland says it would break his heart if Welsh rugby ever returned to the doldrums.

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Gatland's 12-year reign as Wales coach ended with a 40-17 defeat in the World Cup bronze medal match against New Zealand at Tokyo Stadium.

Wales won four Six Nations titles, three Grand Slams, reached two World Cup semi-finals and were briefly world ranked number one team under his direction.

Gatland's assistants Shaun Edwards and Robin McBryde are also leaving their posts, with a new coaching team headed by Wayne Pivac taking over this month.

When Gatland was appointed in late 2007, Wales had earlier crashed out of that year's World Cup at the pool stage following a horror defeat by Fiji in Nantes.

"I really hope for what we've achieved in the last 10 to 12 years, and we feel we've earned respect and put respect back into Wales as an international team, that the new coaches coming in continue to build on that," Gatland said.

"Because what we've done, what we've achieved, it would break my heart if Wales went back into the doldrums.

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"I just want them to continue. There's an opportunity for the new group to come in and build on what we've created and to improve on it.

"It's not to be too greedy on winning the Six Nations every year, but going out there and performing well in the Six Nations.

"And to continue to hopefully get a few Six Nations titles over the way and make sure we are as competitive as we can possibly be against the other top nations.

"We feel we have done that, and I really want Wales to continue to build on that. I want to see these boys be as successful as they possibly can."

There was no fairytale finish for Gatland as the All Blacks ran in six tries, although Wales replied with touchdowns for wing Josh Adams and full-back Hallam Amos.

Adams' score took him to seven touchdowns for the tournament, breaking Shane Williams' Welsh record for one World Cup in 2007.

Gatland, who will coach the Barbarians against Wales in Cardiff later this month, added: "I had already gone through that process of knowing it was my last game and not trying to get too emotional about it.

"I had come to a realisation about it a long time ago. It's something I had prepared myself for and (to) start thinking about the next challenges in life.

"There will be a good crowd there (for the Barbarians game) and hopefully it gives me a chance to say thank you to the Welsh public and fans and express my sincere thanks in terms of how much I've enjoyed these last 12 years.

"If you ask them (Wales players) to run through a brick wall, the next question is 'what do you want me to do when I get to the other side?'"

New Zealand head coach Steve Hansen, who is also stepping down, said: "We (Hansen and Gatland) have played 10 times, I think, and it might be eight wins (to New Zealand), one loss, one draw. It's been competitive, yeah.

"He's coaching a team, Wales, I once coached, and he has done a wonderful job.

"Having him back in New Zealand (at the Chiefs) for a year, I'm not sure how that is going to work because he's going to do the Lions after that, so not a lot of continuity for him or the Chiefs, but I am sure he'll work his way through that."

On no longer being involved with the All Blacks, Hansen added: "It will be beer in one hand, and access to another one in the other hand. No pressure.

"You will always be connected to the team. It's like a family, and you will always want it to do well. I wish and hope this team continues to grow and get better, and I will look on it with great pride."

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