Welsh gathering momentum as they book quarter-final berth

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Rugby Union – Rugby World Cup 2023 – Pool C – Wales v Australia – OL Stadium, Lyon, France – September 24, 2023 Wales’ Aaron Wainwright celebrates with fans after the match REUTERS/Sarah Meyssonnier

LYON, France (Reuters) – Wales dramatically lifted their performance levels to record a one-sided win over Australia and book a quarter-final berth at the Rugby World Cup, to the delight of their coach Warren Gatland.

Given little chance just months ago after a dismal Six Nations championship, the Welsh are now the first country to advance to the business end of the tournament in France after demolishing the Wallabies in Lyon on Sunday with their 40-6 victory ensuring a top two place in Pool C.

Few would have predicted a record margin of victory for Wales over Australia but Gatland said his side had been showing signs of improvement.

“I thought it would be a close game. In fairness, we had a great week in training in terms of preparation. We’ve put a lot of work in during the last four months that this team has been together and we know we’re a momentum team and we build confidence on performances,” he told reporters.

Gatland, who returned last December as Wales coach, was particularly delighted with his defence.

“The fact they didn’t score any tries. We spoke about some of our line speed at halftime. That was a big focus at halftime. We were more aggressive. I thought Gareth Davies did a fantastic job leading that aspect,” he said of the scrumhalf, who also got the first try that laid the platform for the victory.

“I thought our game management was fantastic, in terms of keeping the scoreboard ticking over. We grew into the game and got better.

“They never really threatened us which was pleasing,” he added.

The Welsh were in crisis earlier in the year amid threats of player strikes and, at the time, any success at the World Cup would have been seen as a long shot.

“There were a lot of things going on before the Six Nations. Contract issues and the frustrations from them over players’ futures. I had to sit back and let things unfold.

“But we’ve been together for four months now. You know you can put the detail and hard work in. We’re such a small nation in terms of playing numbers. Our success is based on hard work and punching above our weight and we build confidence on the back of these results,” Gatland said.

(Writing by Mark Gleeson in Cape Town; Editing by Pritha Sarkar)

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