Gatland lays down World Cup final marker for Wales


Warren Gatland has underlined Wales's desire to go one better than in three previous Rugby World Cup campaigns and reach the final.

The Welsh were semi-finalists in 1987, and then twice under Gatland - in 2011 and 2019 - before bowing out on each occasion.

A bonus-point victory over Pool C rivals Fiji last weekend got Wales up and running, and if a repeat performance against Portugal on Saturday (Sunday AEST) would further strengthen their quarter-final ambitions.

Australia and Georgia still await, before a possible last-eight appointment with England or Argentina in Marseille next month.

"We have always been confident in the past about World Cups," Wales head coach Gatland said.

"We have done well in previous World Cups and would like to get to a final of a World Cup.

"I stated beforehand don't write us off and that this team is capable of doing something special, and I still believe that.

"The first priority is to be a really tough team to beat.

"If we do that and get things right and our preparation is good and we don't pick up too many injuries, then there is no reason why we can't continue to progress a long way."

Portugal are next up, with Gatland making 13 changes to the team that started against Fiji, retaining only wing Louis Rees-Zammit and No.8 Taulupe Faletau.

The countries have met just once before - a World Cup qualifier in Lisbon 29 years ago that Wales won 102-11 - with Portugal making their first appearance in the tournament's pool stage since 2007.

New Zealander Gatland said he expected Portugal to mount a similar challenge to that posed by Fiji in Wales's opening match.

"They play a lot of rugby, they've got some exciting players, they like to move the ball around," he said.

"So we are kind of prepared almost in the same way we prepared against Fiji."

Rampant Fiji almost wiped out an 18-point deficit during a frantic final quarter against the Welsh in Bordeaux, while centre Semi Radradra failed to gather a pass in the dying seconds that might have led to him scoring a match-winning try.

Wales, though, held on in nerve-shredding fashion to claim victory.

"We were delighted with the win, delighted with the preparation, everything was going brilliantly for 60-odd minutes with the scoreline," Gatland said.

"Typical Fiji, they get a bit of a sniff and they came back at us really strong in the last period.

"That game is done and dealt with, it is past us now and the focus is on Portugal. Hopefully we will do a good job on Saturday and then move on to Australia next week.

Wales team:

Leigh Halfpenny, Louis Rees-Zammit, Mason Grady, Johnny Williams, Rio Dyer, Gareth Anscombe, Tomos Williams; Taulupe Faletau, Tommy Reffell, Dan Lydiate, Dafydd Jenkins, Christ Tshiunza, Dillon Lewis, Dewi Lake (capt), Nicky Smith.

Replacements: Ryan Elias, Corey Domachowski, Tomas Francis, Adam Beard, Taine Basham, Gareth Davies, Sam Costelow, Josh Adams.