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.”
— 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.”
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