It’s not only the All Blacks who are struggling to come to grips with the idea of signing off on a failed World Cup campaign with a bronze medal play-off.
“I think Steve Tew (New Zealand Rugby CEO) made a joke to Martyn Phillips (CEO of the Welsh Rugby Union) that maybe both teams should have a boat race (beer on the table race) and we could settle it that way. I could see the relevance in that,” said Gatland to rapturous laughter from reporters ahead of Friday’s clash against the All Blacks in Tokyo.
“It’s the last game you want to be involved in but it’s been on the calendar, everyone has known about it.”
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Wales were narrowly beaten in their semi-final against South Africa, a little over 24 hours after England stunned Steve Hansen’s team 19-7 in the other.
On Thursday, All Blacks half-back Aaron Smith admitted it wasn’t the match the All Blacks wanted to play in, but was eager to make amends for the semifinal defeat.
“I was very happy to get a go again to rectify last week. I’m very grateful and I hope to show that in my performance,” Smith said. “My energy levels are perfectly fine… everything this year was to get to this week. We’re lucky to play another game even though it’s just not the game I wanted to be in.”
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) October 31, 2019
According to Gatland, who has made nine changes to the team that lost to the Springboks, the Welsh have put the disappointment of semi-final defeat behind them and are ready to claim their first win over New Zealand since 1953.
“We have got a game (to play). You put the disappointment behind you, you think about the chance to play against the All Blacks and that kind of gets you excited,” he said.
“Hopefully, you put that disappointment behind you in the first 48 hours and you can start getting excited about the next 48 hours, go out there and perform well at the World Cup. We want to go out there and be positive in the way we play. I think the All Blacks will be the same.”
WATCH: Warren Gatland spoke to the media ahead of Wales’ play-off game against New Zealand
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