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Wales gutted but leave with heads held high, says Gatland

Proud boss: Warren Gatland hailed his players’ attitude
Proud boss: Warren Gatland hailed his players’ attitude
Jonathan Bradley

By Jonathan Bradley

Warren Gatland says his side can be proud of their efforts in Japan after being knocked out at the semi-final stage of the World Cup by South Africa in Yokohama yesterday.

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The Six Nations Grand Slam winners were level at 16-16 going into the final few minutes but lost out on a historic all-northern hemisphere final with England thanks to a late Handre Pollard penalty.

It's Wales' third defeat at this stage of the competition and their second under Gatland, who will leave after 12 hugely successful years at the helm following Friday's bronze medal match with New Zealand.

"I am very proud of the boys in never giving up," said Gatland. "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 high and leave Japan with a lot of respect.

"We've got another game to go, we play the All Blacks. My first game in charge was against England and the dream was for it to be my last but it's not to be.

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"This is a great group of players that we've been involved with, and coaches. We need to recover well over the next couple of days and start preparing for the All Blacks.

"We're really disappointed and not being in the final but we've got to be proud of ourselves.

"(Forwards coach) Robin McBryde said in the changing room afterwards, after all the hard work we've done and what this group of players and coaches have achieved, Friday will be our last time together.

"So we're going to make sure that we enjoy this week."

Wales have had to overcome a lengthy list of injuries both before setting out for Japan and since arriving at the tournament.

Taulupe Faletau, Gareth Anscombe, Cory Hill, Josh Navidi and Liam Williams were all absent yesterday, while George North and Tomas Francis departed with knocks in the first half. Given the nature of their remaining game, Gatland admitted it would be a long way for any replacement players to come.

"There's no doubt you're going to pick up injuries along the way, there are no excuses about that," he said.

"We're not using that. It was a squad of 31 and we were emphasising that to everyone.

"We'll look closely at players in the next few days and see how they pull up ahead of the game against the All Blacks. We have to think about whether we make a few changes and give some players a rest with a five-day turnaround.

"It's a long way to come just to hold bags in a training session. We'll have those discussions in the next couple of days."

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