After surviving what he called the “group of hell,” Wales coach Warren Gatland was scathing of a Rugby World Cup draw that was based on rankings three years ago and resulted in his team ending up in Pool A with two-time champion Australia, 2003 winner England, and Fiji, a team that easily could have contended for the quarterfinals.
England’s back-to-back losses to Wales and Australia meant a host team became the first to miss out on the quarterfinals. Gatland, a New Zealander, was stuck between a rock and a hard place while watching the game at Twickenham on Saturday — needing Australia to beat England to ensure the pool would be decided before his Wales team meets the Wallabies next week, which came with the unpalatable concept of being a Kiwi supporting his archrival Aussies in a sporting contest.
“Everyone is making a thing about the first home country to hold a World Cup to miss out on the quarterfinals, but the stupid thing, as we all know, is why was the World Cup draw done three years ago?” Gatland told British media on Sunday. “This is just ridiculous. There are other people outside this who need to have a look at themselves and why those decisions were made, and you have got to feel sorry for the people involved, and who this has affected.”
Ironically, it was all Wales’ fault that all three were lumped in the same pool.
The draw in December 2012 was based on rankings. At the time, Wales was on a seven-match losing streak, and dropped in the rankings from fifth to ninth – outside the top eight seeds. That left it at the mercy of the draw. And the draw was not kind.
“We knew how tough this group was going to be right from the start, and not just with England, Australia and ourselves, because Fiji are a tough proposition as well,” Gatland said. “If Fiji had been in a couple of other groups, they would have qualified for the quarterfinals as well.
“It has been not just the group of death, but the group of hell, basically, for all of us.”