Gatland: Wales chasing top dogs

Warren Gatland says Wales are still a way behind matching the leading southern hemisphere nations.

Gatland, a New Zealander, has been the catalyst for a major turnaround in Wales’ play. They swept to a Triple Crown victory by beating Ireland on Saturday, and are favourites to win the Grand Slam when they face France in Cardiff.

Gatland added that he was pleasantly surprised at the skill level of the Wales players, but despite their success he concedes that his team are still a few notches below the standard set by the south’s big hitters.

“We’ve made some progress, but I’m trying to keep these guys’ feet on the ground. What they’ve achieved already has been pretty special but we’re still a few levels behind teams in the southern hemisphere,” he said.

“We’ve got a tour to South Africa in June and that’s going to be a test for us and we’re lucky enough to play the three southern hemisphere giants in the autumn. For us it’s seeing how much progress we can make in the next 12 months or so.

“We want to be one of the top five sides in the world and that’s just going to take a bit of time.”

Gatland, said “breaking down some of the barriers” that exist in the country was his biggest challenge, but was pleased to play a part of bringing joy to the long suffering Wales fans.

“The big buzz I’ve got is going to the stadium with 75,000 people there and just seeing the smiles on Welsh supporters’ faces. I get a real kick out of that.”