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Gatland confident in Wales' knockout mentality

All good: Warren Gatland says it's now down to the players
All good: Warren Gatland says it's now down to the players

By Duncan Bech

Warren Gatland is relishing the prospect of a World Cup quarter-final against France and has backed Wales' big-game mentality.

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Wales will contest a third successive World Cup last-eight clash of Gatland's reign when they tackle Les Bleus in Oita tomorrow having beaten them in seven of the last eight meetings since suffering a 9-8 2011 World Cup semi-final defeat.

And Gatland, whose time with Wales ends after the tournament, said: "As coaches and players this is what you do all the hard work for. It's all for big moments and to try and get to finals.

"As a coaching group we've had a lot of success in big matches when it has really counted and mattered, whether that has been in Grand Slam games, European finals or Premiership finals with Wasps, or even on Lions tours.

"I think we've got a pretty good formula as a group about getting things right.

"It's not just about the physical preparation, it's about being mentally right and those top two inches everyone talks about.

"If you get that right in big games it can often make a big difference. I keep saying we are in a good place, we've prepared well and the preparation is done.

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"In the next 24 hours we will start building nicely, but we can't play the game before we are ready, and that's important.

"It's all done from the coaching perspective now. It's down to the players in the next 24 to 48 hours to really take ownership and control, and they've been doing that brilliantly already, in my opinion."

Wales have won 19 out of their last 22 Tests, which included a record 14-game unbeaten run, and a 100 per cent Pool D record was their best pool performance at a World Cup since 1987.

"You have to bring things that are a little bit different, that teams are not expecting," Gatland added. "We did that in the Six Nations with games that we played against Ireland with a different strategy, the way we played against England as well."

Scrum-half dangerman Antoine Dupont is fit for France.

Dupont, who Gatland believes is one of the world's best No.9s, had been troubled by a back problem but he will take his place alongside half-back partner Romain Ntamack.

France head coach Jacques Brunel has made five changes from the side that beat Tonga.

Dupont replaces Baptiste Serin, while skipper Guilhem Guirado returns, in addition to lock Bernard le Roux, wing Yoann Huget and centre Gael Fickou.

Full-back Maxime Medard is the only survivor from 2011.

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