Follow all the action on the RugbyPass live blog from the World Cup bronze medal play-off match between New Zealand versus Wales in Tokyo. Keep up to date with the latest score, stats and join the conversation from anywhere in the world in our Live Match Centre (click here).
Gatland’s twelve-year Wales reign ends with the bronze medal match and Jones, who has won 115 of his 133 Wales caps during the Gatland era, said: “He has created expectation – there is always expectation playing rugby for Wales – but that has gone through the roof in the last twelve years over his tenure. That is a privilege.
“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 (coaching) 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.”
Jones will lead a much-changed Wales team into action against the All Blacks, with Wales having a twin incentive of equalling their best World Cup finish – third in 1987 – and chasing a first victory over New Zealand for 66 years. “The show goes on, doesn’t it? It’s not the show we wanted, but we have got to move on,” added 34-year-old Jones. “Make no bones about it, I am one of the eight to 10 (Wales players) who isn’t going to have another World Cup.
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“From a selfish point of view I will acknowledge that, and that’s probably why this one (World Cup) meant so much. It is what it is. We have another game and a lot of the guys here will have another opportunity. I will be right behind them in whatever guise I have when that time comes around.
“When you are in this position, you want to do it for as long as possible. I’ve got a bit longer yet. The family is out here (in Japan) at the minute, so I will spend time with them and when we get back, sort some stuff out and reset the focus.”
Gatland’s counterpart Steve Hansen, who is stepping down as All Blacks coach following the play-off game in Tokyo, admitted that New Zealand’s character has been tested following their semi-final defeat against England. That result sent New Zealand to Tokyo, rather than contesting a third successive World Cup final in Yokohama on Saturday.
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) October 31, 2019
“The most important thing we can do this week is play at the highest standard we can play, to coach to the highest standard you can coach or be the best manager you can be,” Hansen said. “Doing that, we show ourselves and our team-mates and our country that we’ve got some character. It’s easy to have character when you are winning all the time because it’s not tested. Our character has been tested this week.
“The most important thing we can do now is show that if your character is tested, you can stand up to it. That’s the greatest success we can take out of this tournament. It’s the greatest success we can show young people in New Zealand who want to be aspiring All Blacks or aspiring anything. You’ve got to have character.”
Hansen has made seven changes to the team beaten by semi-final opponents England, with Ben Smith, Rieko Ioane, Ryan Crotty, Sonny Bill Williams, Dane Coles, Shannon Frizell and Sam Cane all starting. “It’s about resetting the button and making sure that we go and have a performance that not only we can be proud of, but every New Zealander around the world and every fan of the All Blacks,” added Hansen.
Best alternative yet to having to play the New Zealand vs Wales match that no-one wants on Friday https://t.co/eAx4ddnJDE
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) October 31, 2019
“If we win the game, then we will take that. If not, we will go away and work a bit harder. Success creates a lot of perceptions, but it’s not always true. There is a perception out there that I am a great coach, but that’s only because I’ve won a lot of games, but there are not that many people who know if I’m a great coach or not because they haven’t been in our environment.
“I will have plenty of time after Friday night to reflect on all sorts of stuff. I’m going somewhere else after this (to work in Japan), which we all know, and I will have plenty of time to reflect then with a cold beer in my hand and a hot towel.”
WATCH: Warren Gatland speaks to the media ahead of Wales’ bronze medal play-off game against New Zealand
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