Warren Gatland joked Wales would rather play a drinking game against New Zealand than play the third-fourth play-off – but says his squad will be motivated to beat the All Blacks for the first time in 66 years.
Wales and New Zealand lost their semi-finals to South Africa and England respectively – and Wales have had just five days to prepare for the meaningless match.
So Gatland gave a light-hearted alternative to the World Cup game.
Warren Gatland joked that Wales would be better off facing New Zealand in a drinking game
‘It’s the last game you want to be involved in, but it’s been on the calendar and everyone has known about it,’ he said.
‘I think New Zealand’s CEO Steve Tew made a joke to our chief executive Martyn Phillips that both teams should have a boat race and we could settle it that way!
‘I can see the relevance in that! When you put the disappointment behind you, you think about the chance to play the All Blacks and that gets you excited. Hopefully as coaches we’ve put the disappointment of the last 48 hours behind us and can start getting excited for the next 24.
‘It’s the same for the group of players. We want to go out, perform well, and be positive about the way we play. I think the All Blacks will play the same way.
‘Both teams are quite similar in terms of the synergy we are trying to achieve with the selection. Both of us will want to be positive in the way we want to play.
‘It has been a long time, 66 years not to beat a side. We have had success against every other nation; the All Blacks have been that elusive team we have not been able to conquer.’
Wales’ players train ahead of their third-fourth play-off against the All Blacks on Friday
The Wales boss selected a mix-and-match team for his final match in charge of Wales – against New Zealand in third-fourth playoff.
Gatland has four players who started the semi-final defeat by South Africa injured – Tomas Francis has partially dislocated his shoulder, George North and Aaron Wainwright have hamstring injuries and Leigh Halfpenny is concussed.
‘George North and Aaron Wainwright have hamstring injuries, which have ruled them out,’ said Gatland.
‘After the game, Leigh Halfpenny had a HIA and with the five-day turnaround, he was unavailable because you need a minimum of six days for that.
‘He wasn’t under consideration.
‘Then Tomas Francis could have been fit at a push. That shoulder injury thankfully wasn’t as serious as we first thought.
Dan Biggar (centre) has been named among the replacements for Gatland’s final game
‘But it’s a bit loose so we didn’t consider him.
So that means Dillon Lewis starts at tight-head, Justin Tipuric moves to blindside flanker – to be joined by James Davies at openside – 21-year-old Owen Lane plays on the wing and Hallam Amos starts at full-back.
‘It’s a great chance for Dillon Lewis to start at tight-head. Nicky Smith will be disappointed that he hasn’t had a lot of starts or chances.
‘There are a few guys who hopefully want to go out and prove a point that perhaps they should have had more rugby in this tournament.
‘It’s a good position for them to be in. It’s a position for us to hopefully be positive about the changes in giving players an opportunity.’
Wales have only five days to prepare for this match, having lost to the Boks on Sunday, and underwent their first training session since the semi-final on Wednesday.
‘We did contemplate, after a Sunday, whether we fly out a few players,’ added Gatland.
Wales’ prop Rhys Carre (right) takes part in training as they prepare for their last game in Japan
‘But to fly someone out for them to hold bags for a couple of days probably wasn’t the best thing.
‘We wanted to give some players a chance. We feel like Tomos Williams deserves a chance, to see Rhys Patchell at 10 because, going forward, there is Gareth Anscombe’s injury and Dan Biggar is not always available to Wales given his commitments in England.
‘Owen Watkin deserves a chance and then the back three were really the last three standing.
‘It’s great to see Owen Lane get a chance to play. He was very unlikely not to be in the squad in the first place. We were really impressed with him in that game against Ireland. He’s a great addition to the squad.
‘Hallam gets a chance at full-back, a position where we potentially see his future.
‘In the forwards, there are a few changes, a bit of experience.
‘We realise that this will probably be the last World Cup game for some of the guys.
‘We recognise that and we’ve just made a couple of changes to freshen the legs as well.’
The All Blacks, meanwhile, have chosen a highly-experienced line-up with Kieran Read, Beauden Barrett and Sonny Bill Williams all playing having lost to England 19-7 last Saturday.
It will also be Steve Hansen’s last match in charge of the Kiwis.
Nepo Laulala of the All Blacks gives a thumbs up in training as they prepare to face Wales
He said: ‘This was a tough team to select because, as always, everyone wanted to play. But with a short turnaround and the nature of the Tournament, we feel that this is the right team for this occasion.
‘There’s been a lot of external talk around this being the game that no one wants to play. However, from our point of view, we can’t wait to play it. Everyone in the squad – players and management – are motivated by the opportunity to show that our last performance wasn’t at the high standard that we know we can play at.
‘This is a Test match against an opposition that will also be keen to make a statement. Therefore, we will need to turn up with real attitude, intent and work ethic, and then execute our skillsets to the highest level possible. The game will be physical and fast as both teams will look to play to their strengths.’
WALES VS NEW ZEALAND TEAMS
WALES TEAM TO PLAY NEW ZEALAND
1. Nicky Smith (Ospreys) (34 Caps) 2. Ken Owens (Scarlets) (72 Caps) 3. Dillon Lewis (Cardiff Blues) (21 Caps) 4. Adam Beard (Ospreys) (19 Caps) 5. Alun Wyn Jones (Ospreys) (133 Caps) (CAPT) 6. Justin Tipuric (Ospreys) (71 Caps) 7. James Davies (Scarlets) (7 Caps) 8. Ross Moriarty (Dragons) (40 Caps) 9. Tomos Williams (Cardiff Blues) (15 Caps) 10. Rhys Patchell (Scarlets) (18 Caps) 11. Josh Adams (Cardiff Blues) (20 Caps) 12. Owen Watkin (Ospreys) (21 Caps) 13. Jonathan Davies (Scarlets) (80 Caps) 14. Owen Lane (Cardiff Blues) (1 Cap) 15. Hallam Amos (Cardiff Blues) (21 Caps)
Replacements: 16. Elliot Dee (Dragons) (27 Caps) 17. Rhys Carre (Saracens) (4 Caps) 18. Wyn Jones (Scarlets) (21 Caps) 19. Jake Ball (Scarlets) (41 Caps) 20. Aaron Shingler (Scarlets) (25 Caps) 21. Gareth Davies (Scarlets) (50 Caps) 22. Dan Biggar (Northampton Saints) (78 Caps) 23. Hadleigh Parkes (Scarlets) (24 Caps)
NEW ZEALAND TEAM TO FACE WALES
1. Joe Moody (44) 2. Dane Coles (68) 3. Nepo Laulala (24) 4. Brodie Retallick (80) 5. Scott Barrett (35) 6. Shannon Frizell (8) 7. Sam Cane (67) 8. Kieran Read – captain (126) 9. Aaron Smith (91) 10. Richie Mo’unga (16) 11. Rieko Ioane (28) 12. Sonny Bill Williams (56) 13. Ryan Crotty (47) 14. Ben Smith (83) 15. Beauden Barrett (82)
Replacements: 16. Liam Coltman (7) 17. Atu Moli (7) 18. Angus Ta’avao (13) 19. Patrick Tuipulotu (29) 20. Matt Todd (24) 21. Brad Weber (4) 22. Anton Lienert-Brown (41) 23. Jordie Barrett (16)