New Zealand v Wales, Dunedin, June 19
Gatland calls for Welsh confidence
June 14, 2010
Warren Gatland has called for confidence from Wales © Getty Images
Wales coach Warren Gatland is hoping to inspire confidence in his side prior to Saturday's meeting with the All Blacks in Dunedin.
The former Waikato hooker has become known in recent years as a master of the verbal broadside, but on this occasion he is more than happy to focus on his own charges as they look for a first win over New Zealand since 1953.
"It wasn't until I left New Zealand and played overseas that it dawned on me how difficult it is for any touring side to come here and give a performance and get a result," Gatland said. "You've got to come here and back yourself and have that belief that you can perform. Perhaps in the past that may not have been the case.
"The big thing for us is that physically we're in pretty good shape, skilfully and fitness-wise. So it's making sure that between now and Saturday is building on the self-belief and confidence."
Wales have travelled to Wellington, where they will test out a number of facilities that will be used for their Rugby World Cup opener against South Africa in 2011, shorn of a number of leading lights but Gatland hopes to see confidence flow come kick-off.
Flanker Martyn Williams and scrum-half Dwayne Peel have both been rested for the tour while Blues back-row Sam Warburton, centre James Hook, lock Luke Charteris and prop Gethin Jenkins are all out injured. Gatland has pointed to the example set by France in 2009 as a spur, with Marc Lievremont's men halving a series against the All Blacks despite travelling without a number of star players.
"Perhaps the team who came here with that air of confidence recently is France," Gatland said. "They came with a very weakened team and they would have been written off before that was played. Then they won the first test and probably should have won the second test as well. You've just got to keep looking at those occasions and hopefully the same may happen to us."
Gatland's confidence will have to be matched by a huge performance from his squad, especially in the wake of the All Blacks' 66-28 mauling of Ireland last weekend. While the Irish, who comfortably beat Wales during the Six Nations, hit the self-destruct button with Jamie Heaslip's red card, the hosts showed plenty of guile and promise in their first outing of the season.
"They were outstanding in terms of the variation they had," Gatland said. "Last year the game was dominated by kicking and it's pleasing to see there's been a change in that philosophy. I thought their offloading and counter-attacking game was pretty impressive. Their lineout went well and it just goes to show that even though there were a number of key players injured, just the talent and depth there is in New Zealand rugby."