CARDIFF (Reuters) - Wales coach Warren Gatland urged reporters on Tuesday to write off his team’s chances of doing well in the World Cup.
The New Zealander lost his first-choice fullback Leigh Halfpenny and scrumhalf Rhys Webb last week, adding to the pressure Wales were already facing in a tough Pool A along with England, Australia and Fiji.
“If you can do your jobs and write us off as much as possible, that would be great,” Gatland told a news conference.
”If we can come into the competition being written off, which seems to be happening at the moment, that’s the best situation for a Wales team to be in.
“Sometimes those things galvanise us and make us stronger as a unit. So, please continue to do it.”
Gatland believes this will be the most keenly-contested World Cup ever.
“There are a number of teams who need a bit of luck to get through the pool stages, but everyone has an opportunity,” he said.
Wales reached the semi-finals in New Zealand four years ago.
”We did that in 2011,“ Gatland said. ”We got through the pool stages and quarter-final and everyone knows how close we came to reaching the final.
“I think there are seven or eight teams who will fancy themselves if they get through to the quarter-finals.”
Gatland thinks the northern hemisphere teams have caught up with traditional rugby superpowers New Zealand, Australia and South Africa, who have won six of the seven World Cups.
”Just look back to the autumn,“ he said. ”It was the best the northern hemisphere had done against the southern hemisphere nations for a number of years.
”And again towards the end of the Six Nations, we saw some expansive rugby played by four or five of those teams in the championship.
“That was a real positive and hopefully the weather will stay pretty good and we will see some hard grounds and some pretty good rugby.”
Wales face Uruguay on Sunday in Cardiff in their opening match and captain Sam Warburton has been delighted by his team’s meticulous preparations.
”I can’t speak highly enough about the analysts,“ he said. ”They do a lot of hours and sometimes don’t get enough credit for working around the clock.
“Obviously, we are still waiting for their team selection to be made, so we can have a really good look at them. At the moment we are just trying to focus on ourselves and doing what we have got to do.”
Editing by Toby Davis