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Wales skipper hails departing coach Gatland

High praise: Alun Wyn Jones
High praise: Alun Wyn Jones

By Andrew Baldock

Wales captain Alun Wyn Jones says that Warren Gatland created expectation "that has gone through the roof" during his time as head coach.

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Gatland's 12-year Wales reign ends with the World Cup bronze medal match against New Zealand today (9am UK time).

Jones has won 115 of his 133 Wales caps during the Gatland era, including leading his country to three Grand Slams and World Cup semi-finals.

"He has created expectation - there is always expectation playing rugby for Wales - but that has gone through the roof in the last 12 years over his tenure. That is a privilege," Jones said.

"He has always had one eye on that (Wales' future). He is fiercely loyal not only to players, but to the country and the job.

"When the pressure has come on, he has stuck to his guns. When you talk about change, he has been reluctant to do that at times and it has paid off.

"He's had the Midas touch at times. It is a credit to him as a person - more than as a rugby coach or anything like that - that he wants to give the next regime the best chance possible.

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"It also puts the pressure on. That expectation is always going to be there. I can see him wanting to pave the way and for someone to carry on from the foundations he has set.

"I am fortunate to be involved in his tenure. He is one of, if not the most successful northern hemisphere coaches ever.

"Obviously an appearance on Saturday (in the World Cup final) has eluded us. That would have been the jewel in the crown.

"From where we were in 2007 to where we are now - one quarter-final, two semi-finals, three Grand Slams and a Six Nations Championship - it's a far cry from where we were.

"Those markers speak volumes, rather than one individual performance."

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