Warren Gatland believes the knee injury that deprived Wales of Gareth Anscombe was a decisive factor in the country's Rugby World Cup semi-final defeat to South Africa.

Gatland saw a glittering career as Wales coach end in disappointment as they again fell short of World Cup glory in 2019.

Having overseen defeats in the semi-finals in 2011 and quarter-finals in 2015, Gatland guided his side to the last four in Japan, only for them to suffer an agonising 19-16 loss to the Springboks.

Anscombe sustained an anterior cruciate ligament injury in Wales' warm-up game with England, and the fly-half's absence was keenly felt by Gatland as they were denied by the eventual champions.

"We gave it everything in that semi-final against South Africa and at 16-16 with 10 minutes to go we were in control of the ball, the momentum had swung our way, I thought we were going to win and get ourselves into a World Cup final," Gatland told WalesOnline.

"It wasn't to be but that's just rugby, it's sport. I was gutted.

"That was the first time that I felt we really missed a player and that was Gareth Anscombe. He was a big loss for us.

"I've loved my time in Wales. The people have been amazing."

Enormous applause around the stadium as Warren Gatland signs off from Wales duty. What a twelve years it's been. #DiolchWarren pic.twitter.com/7z4swrAGw1

— Welsh Rugby Union (@WelshRugbyUnion) November 1, 2019

"Rhys Patchell did really well for us in a World Cup and Dan [Biggar] was excellent.

"But I just felt that the balance we had with Anscombe and Biggar beforehand, they complemented each other really well. They're different types of players and you're able to use them differently and use your strengths differently.

"It was the first time in my entire coaching career I felt that the loss of one player had a real effect.

"If you lose someone like [Taulupe] Faletau – and we know how good he is – we've got other players who are able to fill the space.

"A fit Faletau at his best would have been significant but there are other quality loose forwards there, so I felt like we could manage that.

"Anscombe is someone that we missed."

The former Real Madrid star whose words inspired the infamous "WALES. GOLF. MADRID" flag hopes criticism of Gareth Bale has come to an end.

Predrag Mijatovic, scorer of 44 goals for Madrid in the late 1990s, fuelled negative fan opinion against the 30-year-old winger when he questioned Bale's priorities in an October interview.

"[The perception is] the first thing he thinks about is Wales, then golf and after that, Real Madrid," Mijatovic, 50, was quoted as telling radio station Cadena SER.

Wales fans adapted the comments into a light-hearted chant and later a banner, which Bale posed behind following last month's triumph over Hungary.

The former Tottenham star was celebrating qualification for Euro 2020 but several Spanish media outlets perceived his actions to be a slight against Madrid.

He was met with jeers every time he touched the ball on his next appearance at the Santiago Bernabeu, a 3-1 LaLiga win against Real Sociedad.

"My intention was not this, I have already said that Bale has great qualities as a footballer and I have always liked him," Mijatovic told AS TV.

"It is true that he makes mistakes on some occasions and we have to comment on him as former players and former directors, but I don't want any more controversies, nor the flag to play a leading role.

"What I want is for Madrid to play well and win all the possible titles. I'd rather not say anything else [about Bale] because we're going to bring it all up again.

"The most important thing is that Bale is back, he's playing and that's what we all want."

Mijatovic spent three seasons with Madrid during his playing career, notably scoring the goal that secured victory against Juventus in the 1998 Champions League final.

He served as the club's sporting director from 2006 to 2009.

Roberto Mancini has warned Italy not to underestimate the less glamorous teams joining them in Group A at Euro 2020.

The Azzurri will face Turkey, Switzerland and Wales next June after receiving a relatively kind draw.

Mancini's men will be expected to reach the knockout rounds after maintaining a perfect record through qualifying, the only nation alongside Belgium to accomplish this feat.

But in 2016 semi-finalists Wales, a talented Turkey team and a Switzerland side boasting the best FIFA ranking of the four, Mancini found hidden demons.

"I don't think the group will be as simple as some are saying," the former Inter head coach told Radio Anch'io.

"They are annoying teams with nothing to lose. They all have good players and a lot of young players.

"Switzerland know us well and are always annoying to face, Wales can be a surprise with players in the Premier League and Turkey took four points from France in their qualifying group.

"These are teams that are difficult to deal with, but we are optimistic."

Euro 2020 will mark Italy's first appearance at a major tournament in four years, following the shock failure to reach the 2018 World Cup in Russia.

Mancini confirmed the squad he intends to take is already largely settled.

He said: "I believe the group is now outlined, but obviously if an extraordinary young man, a Paolo Rossi or [Salvatore] Schillaci, were to emerge in the next six months, we would be very pleased."

The last three European winners of major tournaments will play in the same pool at Euro 2020, after France, Portugal and Germany were all drawn together

Germany and France - victors at the respective 2014 and 2018 World Cups - will take on reigning European champions Portugal and a play-off winner in Group G.

Croatia, runners-up at last year's World Cup, will renew acquaintances with England, the side they beat in the semi-finals.

Here is the draw in full for next year's event, with four places in the finals still to be determined by the four path-winners in March's play-offs.

 

Group A: Turkey, Italy, Wales, Switzerland

Group B: Denmark, Finland, Belgium, Russia.

Group C: Netherlands, Ukraine, Austria, play-off winner from Path D (Georgia, Belarus, North Macedonia or Kosovo) or Romania if they win Path A.

Group D: England, Croatia, Czech Republic, play-off winner from Path C (Scotland, Israel, Norway or Serbia)

Group E: Spain, Sweden, Poland, play-off winner from Path B (Slovakia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Northern Ireland or Republic of Ireland)

Group F: Germany, France, Portugal, play-off winner from Path A (Iceland, Bulgaria, Hungary) or winner of Path D (Georgia, Belarus, North Macedonia or Kosovo) if Romania win Path A.

Holders Portugal will face world champions France and fellow heavyweights Germany in a daunting Group F at Euro 2020.

Saturday's draw in Bucharest pitted Fernando Santos' men and their talismanic captain Cristiano Ronaldo against the winners of the two World Cups either side of their Euro 2016 triumph.

It means Didier Deschamps' Bleus will have an opportunity for revenge after Portugal beat them on home soil at the Stade de France to lift the trophy.

The nation with the dubious pleasure of joining them is still to be determined. Iceland, Bulgaria or Hungary would claim the fourth spot if they progress through their play-off route in Path A.

However, if Romania are victorious in Path A, they will go into Group C with Netherlands, Ukraine and Austria.

In permutations that underline the convoluted and criticised format, one of Georgia, Belarus, North Macedonia or Kosovo from play-off Path B would enter Group F if Romania qualify. Otherwise, the winner of Path B goes into Group C.

Italy open the tournament, which will take place across 12 host cities, when they entertain Turkey in Rome on June 12. Wales and Switzerland are also in Group A.

England and Croatia renew acquaintances at Wembley in Group D – Gareth Southgate's men having been sunk by a Mario Mandzukic winner in the semi-finals of Russia 2018 before progressing to the Nations League Finals at the expense of Zlatko Dalic's team.

There is the possibility of an all-British encounter if Scotland prevail from their play-off path alongside Israel, Norway and Serbia, while Czech Republic will meet England again in the finals having traded victories with the Three Lions during qualification.

Group B is the second group not waiting to see how play-off cards fall, with the world's number-one ranked team Belgium lining up alongside Denmark, Finland and Russia.

Spain are aiming to make it three European titles in four attempts after securing glory in 2008 and 2012.

They head up Group C, where the winner of the play-off route including Bosnia-Herzegovina, Northern Ireland, Slovakia and the Republic of Ireland will round out the line-up alongside Sweden and Poland.

The Euro 2020 play-offs take place during next March's international break.

Wayne Pivac saw encouraging signs for the future as his Wales reign began with a 43-33 victory over Warren Gatland's Barbarians in Cardiff.

Former Scarlets coach Pivac was at the helm for the first time and he made a winning start against his predecessor Gatland's team, Wales running in six tries to the BaaBaas' five.

Josh Adams, the leading try-scorer at the Rugby World Cup, scored a brace, as did hooker Ken Owens, and Pivac was pleased with what he saw from his team in attack.

However, with Wales having led 33-7 early in the second half, Pivac admitted there is work to do defensively ahead of their Six Nations title defence.

"A lot of good work went in during the week," Pivac said at a news conference after the win.

"There's a lot of info to take on in a week, but scoring 43 points was a sign of what we want to do. We need to tighten up the defence but it's promising.

"The boys have been fantastic. We're pleased to get the win and focus on the Six Nations."

Wales' victory came without captain Alun Wyn Jones and star backs Liam Williams, George North and Jonathan Davies.

With wing Johnny McNicholl having scored a try on debut, too, Pivac is buoyant about the future.

"The first thing we'll do is review the game," he explained.

"It's been a valuable week. There were some well-known faces in the stand and they'll look forward to coming back into the fold."

The last three European winners of major tournaments will play in the same pool at Euro 2020, after France, Portugal and Germany were all drawn together

Germany and France - victors at the respective 2014 and 2018 World Cups - will take on reigning European champions Portugal and a play-off winner in Group G.

Croatia, runners-up at last year's World Cup, will renew acquaintances with England, the side they beat in the semi-finals.

Here is the draw in full for next year's event, with four places in the finals still to be determined by the four path-winners in March's play-offs.

 

Group A: Turkey, Italy, Wales, Switzerland

Group B: Denmark, Finland, Belgium, Russia.

Group C: Netherlands, Ukraine, Austria, play-off winner from Path D (Georgia, Belarus, North Macedonia or Kosovo) or Romania if they win Path A.

Group D: England, Croatia, Czech Republic, play-off winner from Path C (Scotland, Israel, Norway or Serbia)

Group E: Spain, Sweden, Poland, play-off winner from Path B (Slovakia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Northern Ireland or Republic of Ireland)

Group F: Germany, France, Portugal, play-off winner from Path A (Iceland, Bulgaria, Hungary) or winner of Path D (Georgia, Belarus, North Macedonia or Kosovo) if Romania win Path A.

Warren Gatland bade an emotional farewell to Wales on Saturday as his successor Wayne Pivac's reign started with a 43-33 win over Barbarians.

New Zealander Gatland spent 12 years in charge of the Wales team, guiding them to a pair of Rugby World Cup semi-finals and three Grand Slams, but he led their opponents in Cardiff, where Pivac was at the helm for the first time.

Josh Adams and Ken Owens both scored two tries apiece as Pivac began life as Wales coach with a victory.

Gatland, who was given a rousing ovation on the pitch after the game, thanked the crowd at the Principality Stadium for their support during the past dozen years.

"It's been brilliant for 12 years," Gatland told Channel 4.

"I love this place, you guys have given me so much.

"My time at Wales has been absolutely brilliant, there's a really special place in my heart for Wales and the people here.

"It's been incredibly special."

Gatland is returning to his homeland to take charge of the Chiefs and, though it came at his team's expense, he was pleased to see Wales get up and running under Pivac.

"I'll be back some day, maybe sitting in the stand," he added.

"It's been pretty cool and it's been brilliant for Wales to win today, and a new regime.

"It's been so brilliant to be able to put smiles on people's faces from time to time and [win] a few Grand Slams."

Barbarians coach Warren Gatland bade Wales farewell on Saturday as his successor Wayne Pivac claimed a 43-33 victory in his first match in charge.

Gatland's glorious 12-year stint as Wales coach came to an end after the Rugby World Cup, where he led the team to their second fourth-place finish of his tenure, but the New Zealander was back in Cardiff to lead his old team's opponents.

His successor Pivac made a winning start, though, as wing Josh Adams and hooker Ken Owens crossed for two tries apiece, though a late BaaBaas fightback meant the margin of victory was only 10 points.

Gatland was afforded a rousing reception when he was shown on the big screen at the Principality Stadium while BaaBaas captain Rory Best, Ireland's most-capped forward, was given a standing ovation when he was substituted in the second half of his final appearance.

Wales led 19-7 at the break as Adams, the World Cup's leading try-scorer, went over along with international debutant Johnny McNicholl and Owens.

Further tries from Owens and Adams after the break put Wales firmly in charge, while substitute Gareth Davies also got in on the act.

The Barbarians scored five tries in total - four of them coming after the break - as Josh Strauss, Curwin Bosch, Shaun Stevenson, Craig Millar and Peter Samu all crossed.

Wales have honoured their former coach Warren Gatland by naming an entrance to the Principality Stadium after him.

Gatland coached Wales for 12 years, ending his tenure following their Rugby World Cup campaign this year.

The defending Six Nations champions were beaten 19-16 by South Africa in the semi-finals, before going down to Gatland's native New Zealand in the third-place play-off.

Wayne Pivac has taken over from Gatland, who led Wales to four Six Nations triumphs and will now go up against his former team when he coaches a Barbarians side in Cardiff on Saturday.

Ahead of the match, the Welsh Rugby Union has confirmed the main entrance to the Principality Stadium has been re-named 'Gatland's Gate' in tribute to the 56-year-old.

"This building will always be a very special place for me," said Gatland, Wales' longest-serving coach, of the Principality Stadium.

"It evokes a host of wonderful memories and has been the location for some of my very best days in rugby. It embodies all the emotion that goes with winning big games, but also the hard work, dedication and passion of everyone involved at every stage from players to staff and to my own family and to the fans themselves.

"This a hugely unexpected honour and one that I am humbled by. I'd like to thank all the staff at the Union, the players, my fellow coaches and backroom staff and everyone throughout Welsh rugby for their passion, respect and belief over the last 12 years."

Warren Gatland has joked he does not know how to get to the away coach's box at the Principality Stadium, as he prepares to bid farewell to Wales.

Gatland brought his 12-year tenure as Wales coach to an end with a defeat to New Zealand in the Rugby World Cup third-place play-off, after a 19-16 loss to eventual champions South Africa in the semi-finals.

Fellow New Zealander Wayne Pivac has now taken over, with his first game in charge of the Six Nations champions coming against a Barbarians side coached by Gatland on Saturday in Cardiff.

Acknowledging it will be a bizarre way to say goodbye, Gatland nevertheless said he is relishing going up against his former side, revealing he asked the Barbarians to be their coach for this particular match.

"I have no idea where the away box is. Someone will have to show me so that I do not get lost," Gatland told a news conference after announcing his team for Saturday's match.

"I did not think it was right for it to be my last match with Wales. I was finished after the World Cup and it was a great chance for the new coaching team to come in and get some time with the players to help them build for the Six Nations.

"I thought that was really important and so rather than the Barbarians asking me I had to ask them if I could please coach them against Wales so that I was involved.

"I have enjoyed this week, working with players and coaches for the first time, and it is an opportunity for me to say thank you to the Welsh fans and public for 12 brilliant, amazing years.

"The place has grown on me and I do not think I can lose either way on Saturday, but we are here to play some rugby and give a good performance."

Gatland also added he has not had any contact with his successor, insisting it would be out of place for him to offer any guidance.

"I have not been in contact with Wayne. This is his team now and I have stepped back because it is important that he takes the reins," Gatland said.

"He was at the World Cup for a couple of weeks and had a look. It was funny on Tuesday because I went back to my apartment and drove past when they were training.

"It felt a bit weird so I made sure I did not look out of the car window and my apartment overlooks the ground. I did not watch them train and felt a bit awkward. It was too dark, anyway.

"It is an unusual situation on Saturday but one to look forward to. I am sure both sides will want to play."

Justin Tipuric will captain Wales in Wayne Pivac's first game at the helm as the Rugby World Cup semi-finalists take on the Barbarians, led by their former coach Warren Gatland.

After 12 years in charge of Wales, New Zealander Gatland brought an end to his tenure following their campaign in Japan, which concluded with a 19-16 defeat to eventual champions South Africa in the last four.

Former Scarlets coach Pivac has replaced his compatriot and his first game in charge comes on Saturday against a Barbarians side coached by Gatland.

Tipuric – one of eight players in the team to have featured at the World Cup – has been named skipper and will start in the back row, while Scarlets wing Johnny McNicholl, who has qualified to represent Wales on the three-year residency rule, has been handed a debut.

It will be Wales' first meeting with the Barbarians since 2012, and Pivac is relishing the contest at the Principality Stadium.

"This week has been hugely exciting and hugely important for us as a group," said Pivac. "It has been an opportunity for us as a new squad and management to get together and to set the scene for what the future holds.

"This weekend itself is really exciting. The Barbarians are what rugby is all about. It is the fun element of the game and supporters should be looking forward to some good old-fashioned running rugby and it should be an entertaining afternoon."

Gatland, meanwhile, has named former Ireland captain Rory Best as the Barbarians' skipper. It will be the 37-year-old's final international match.

 

Wales: Leigh Halfpenny, Johnny McNicholl, Owen Watkin, Hadleigh Parkes, Josh Adams, Jarrod Evans, Tomos Williams; Wyn Jones, Ken Owens, Dillon Lewis, Jake Ball, Adam Beard, Aaron Shingler, Justin Tipuric, Aaron Wainwright.

Replacements: Elliot Dee, Rob Evans, Leon Brown, Seb Davies, Ollie Griffiths, Gareth Davies, Sam Davies, Owen Lane​.

Gareth Bale could make his first LaLiga appearance since October 5 after he was named on a star-studded Real Madrid bench for the home game against Real Sociedad.

Forward Bale has not featured for his club since the 4-2 win over Granada at the start of last month, though he has played four times for Wales since that outing.

The 30-year-old was on international duty during the week, helping Ryan Giggs' squad secure a place at Euro 2020 with a 2-0 win over Hungary. He celebrated after the final whistle, dancing and singing with a banner that read:  'WALES. GOLF. MADRID…IN THAT ORDER' 

The slogan originates from a chant by Wales supporters that pokes fun at perceptions of Bale among the Spanish media, who have accused the former Tottenham player of pushing Madrid down his list of priorities.

Prior to Saturday's game with Sociedad, Zinedine Zidane called for the Madrid fans to get behind Bale, who almost moved to China earlier in the year.

Bale will wait to find out if the Santiago Bernabeu faithful take their head coach's advice, depending on whether he is involved during proceedings in the capital.

Toni Kroos, Marcelo and Isco are also substitutes for Madrid, with the only change from the XI that started the 4-0 win over Eibar seeing Rodrygo Goes replace the injured Lucas Vazquez.

Gareth Bale has been included in Real Madrid's squad for their LaLiga encounter with Real Sociedad despite the controversy caused by his celebrations after Wales' successful Euro 2020 qualification.

Wales booked their place at next year's finals with a 2-0 win over Hungary in Cardiff on Tuesday.

Bale, who has not played for Madrid since October 5, featured from the start for Ryan Giggs' side and was pictured after the match singing and dancing behind a banner that read: 'WALES. GOLF. MADRID…IN THAT ORDER'.

The slogan originates from a chant by Wales supporters that pokes fun at perceptions among the Spanish media, who have accused Bale of bumping Madrid down his list of priorities and spending too much time on the golf course.

Those celebrations drew further criticism from sections of the Madrid press and Los Blancos' fanbase, but Zidane – whose relationship with Bale has reportedly been a troubled one – claimed on Friday that the issue had been overblown.

Zidane has now included Bale in his squad for Saturday's clash with Sociedad, who would move above Madrid with a win at the Santiago Bernabeu.

Bale's inclusion comes at the expense of Vinicius Junior, with the teenage winger missing out on the 19-man selection.

Vinicius has made eight appearances in LaLiga this term, though only four of those have been starts.

Zinedine Zidane has called for the Real Madrid fans to get behind Gareth Bale despite his well-publicised Wales celebrations this week.

Bale was pictured behind a banner that read 'WALES. GOLF. MADRID…IN THAT ORDER' following his country's 2-0 win over Hungary on Tuesday that secured them qualification to Euro 2020.

The slogan originates from a chant by Wales supporters that pokes fun at perceptions among the Spanish media, who have accused Bale of bumping Madrid down his list of priorities and spending too much time on the golf course.

Bale's celebration drew the ire of Madrid fans and many in the national media with Marca leading with the headline 'DISRESPECTFUL. WRONG. UNGRATEFUL. IN THAT ORDER'.

But Madrid head coach Zidane defended Bale, who almost left for China in the close-season, and urged the club's supporters to get behind the former Tottenham man.

"Those who really support the club, those who come to the stadium, know he's a Real Madrid player," he said.

"You shouldn't look at what goes on elsewhere, you have to support the team, the players, have to get behind the side.

"I will always support my players. Things might go on outside the Real Madrid environment but we're in this together."

Zidane was quizzed repeatedly about Bale ahead of Saturday's home game with Real Sociedad and was quick to highlight the player's achievements in Spain.

He added: "I think sometimes people go over the top with this topic, everyone has their point of view, we're here to focus on football. 

"I think now it's almost the snowball effect. I mean he was fit and could play with the national team, he's here, available and we're delighted. 

"He's done a lot for this club. I'm only concerned with the sporting side. I'm not here to speak about the rest, I'm not interested. I know a lot of people are but not me."

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