Follow all the action on the RugbyPass live blog from the World Cup quarter-final match between Wales versus France in Oita. 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).
Warren Gatland is relishing the prospect of a World Cup quarter-final against France and has backed Wales’ big-game mentality. Wales will contest a third successive World Cup last-eight clash of Gatland’s reign when they tackle Les Bleus in Oita on Sunday.
Wales have beaten France in seven of the last eight meetings since suffering an agonising 9-8 2011 World Cup semi-final defeat against them. And Gatland, whose time with Wales ends after the tournament, said: “As coaches and players this is what you do all the hard work and training 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 as well. We have 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 have prepared well and the preparation is done.”
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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 group stage 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.
“For this game, we have prepared well. It is going in and making sure you are systematically trying to break down an opposition with the way you have prepared and planned the game. Often it is games that you have lost that are more significant in helping you prepare as coaches.
“We keep working hard and about four of the last seven tries (Wales scored) against France have been situations where we kept working hard to chase, and one of their players has made an error and we have capitalised. Defensively, (Wales defence coach) Shaun (Edwards) has been a little bit more on edge this week. He is pretty pumped up from a defensive point of view.
Lee Byrne spent three years in France and understands how emotionally charged they'll be in Oita but he also knows @WelshRugbyUnion have been in dark places and he's backing them to atone for 2011's heartache
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) October 19, 2019
“We have been working hard defensively. He was not too happy with conceding a try against Uruguay and he let the players know clearly in the changing room afterwards. We have trained well and prepared extremely well and go into this game with a lot of confidence.”
France head coach Jacques Brunel, meanwhile, accepted that Wales are favourites to win. Although many recent Wales-France games have been close affairs, the French consistently came out on the wrong side. “Wales’ confidence is higher than ours, that’s obvious,” Brunel said.
“They have been consistent for a few seasons. That is undeniable. They’re the favourites, we are in the role of the underdog. That is logical, normal, but it doesn’t stop us believing in our chances.”
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Our index gives Wales a 91% chance of victory, agree? pic.twitter.com/r6TeQ5VtZI
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France have been boosted by the return to fitness of scrum-half Antoine Dupont and wing Damien Penaud, but they will encounter a Wales team full of confidence. “They [Wales] are not going to change their strategy,” Brunel added. “They are going to rely on a very strong defensive screen, quality individuals, their ability to put the opposition under pressure.
“It is the same XV that played against Australia (last month). In the first seven minutes, they suffocated Australia and perhaps won the match there. They are capable of imposing that but, by contrast, we saw in their recent matches that there were opportunities. We have the ability to trouble them.
“Teams have gone home and some weren’t expecting to. We are there, still involved, preparing for a match. To keep going, we will need a lot of courage, enthusiasm, determination, and drive in everything we do. I hope we will be able to show the face we want to during the 80 minutes. The biggest motivation has to be being among the best players in the world.”
WATCH: Jim Hamilton previews the Wales vs France quarter-final in the latest episode of Don’t Mess With Jim
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