Rugby World Cup 2019: Warren Gatland determined to avenge 2011 semi defeat to France

Departing Wales coach Warren Gatland has achieved plenty in his 12-year tenure as Welsh coach, but one moment still haunts him to this day. 

Eight years ago, in New Zealand, Wales were favoured to beat France in their semi-final clash, but that changed when captain Sam Warburton was sent off for a dangerous tackle in the 17th minute. 

Wales kept within touching distance, but two missed shots at goal proved costly, as France won 9-8 to book their place in the final.

Gatland's side went onto finish fourth, their second-best showing at a World Cup, but he knows Wales should have contested the final against the All Blacks. 

Now Wales have their chance for revenge, when the two nations square off in the quarter-finals of the 2019 World Cup in Japan on Sunday.

Rugby World Cup 2019: Warren Gatland determined to avenge 2011 semi defeat to France

"It hurts still," Gatland said, reminiscing back on that match.

"Getting a red card after 17 minutes against a world-class team, you expect to lose by 20-30 points, but we hung in until the end and had the chance to win it.

"So to lose 9-8 was so disappointing, but it showed what this team is all about. They never give up."

Since that World Cup defeat, Wales have won seven of the last eight meetings between the two nations.

With the winners of this game drawn to face either Japan or South Africa in the semi-finals, Gatland feels this is Wales' best chance to make the World Cup final. 

"We're in a good place," he said, after Wales' 35-13 win over Uruguay on Sunday. 

"We are pleased with what we have achieved in the last couple of years, especially in games that matter, so we have a lot of belief within the team and we know we are in good shape physically.

"We know the work we've put in. There are lots of good teams in the knockout stages, so we have to make the most of our opportunities.

"There is a massive motivation to win the quarter-final, because you win that and you know you're here until the end of the tournament, and the boys don't want to go home."

While Wales have had the edge over France recently, Gatland knows the threat France pose, especially at a World Cup. 

"We have a pretty good record against France, but they are a tournament team. People write them off and then they produce a performance no-one expects.

"We know how hard it will be, they have quality individuals and seem to thrive in quarter-finals and semi-finals. 

"It will be tough, but we will thrive on that. We seem to play better against better sides.

"We cannot take for granted our recent good record against France, we have to focus on Sunday. They will be a little fresher than us, but we feel battle hardened. 

"They are undefeated like us, so it should be a great match."

Essential Guide to 2019 Rugby World Cup

Everything you need to know about rugby and the World Cup...

The ninth Rugby World Cup kicks off on September 20 in Japan - the first time it has been hosted in Asia.

Join us for live updates of all Rugby World Cup quarter-finals next weekend.

Newshub. 

Contact Newshub with your story tips:
news@newshub.co.nz