Gatland rejects claims of gamesmanship


Warren Gatland said there was no attempt by Wales to “manipulate the laws” after his team’s dour 13-6 victory over Georgia ended in controversial fashion.

Substitute prop Tomas Francis was sin-binned a minute into stoppage time, with both starting props — Nicky Smith and Leon Brown — having gone off just before the hour mark.

After a lengthy delay and confusion reigning as the fourth official became involved, referee Mathieu Raynal ruled uncontested scrums as both Smith and Brown were deemed unfit to return.

Loosehead Smith would not have been allowed to scrummage at tighthead on safety grounds anyway, while Brown was suffering from cramp.

Georgia, meanwhile, then changed their mind — which they are not allowed to do — by kicking a penalty resulting from Francis’ yellow card to touch after initially calling for a scrum, before going through 11 phases of play and then conceding a penalty as Wales held out to win.

“We were as confused as anyone,” Gatland said. “It was a tactical change with Leon, but we knew he was cramping up a little bit.

“After the yellow card, there was a question whether he could go on. But he had cramped up, his calves were no good.

“Nicky had had a bag on his calf as well. It would have been uncontested anyway with Nicky going back on at tighthead. So [hooker] Kristian Dacey has gone on.

“I can promise you there wasn’t anything from our point of view in terms of trying to manipulate the laws or anything like that. If Leon had have been fit, he definitely would have gone back on the field.”

A World Rugby spokesperson told Press Association Sport: “All matches are reviewed, including match official, performance reviewer and coach feedback.

“It would be inappropriate to comment until the facts have been obtained and the review has been undertaken.”

For his part, Georgia head coach Milton Haig said: “Look, the comment was that they had two props who were suffering from cramp at the same time, so they couldn’t put somebody on.

“It was disappointing for us, obviously. It is what it is. There is a process for looking at whether the correct procedure was followed.

“To be honest, I am not interested in taking it further. That is not what I am about, that’s for sure, but we were obviously disappointed we couldn’t have a scrum.

“There was an opportunity for us at the end to be able to at least get the draw, so I am a little bit disappointed about that.”

Wales huffed and puffed their way to victory over the Six Nations wannabes after being pushed to the limit.

Gatland made 14 changes to face the world’s 12th-ranked team, and it showed signs of backfiring spectacularly during a second half that Georgia dominated at the Principality Stadium.

Wales ultimately prevailed through wing Hallam Amos’ try, plus two penalties and a conversion from fly-half Rhys Priestland, who was easily their best player.

But it made uncomfortable watching for home supporters as Georgia threatened an upset that would have been Test rugby’s biggest since Japan beat South Africa in the 2015 World Cup.

Gatland, meanwhile, said that fullback Liam Williams was “hobbling around” after the game, which comes just seven days before Wales face world champions New Zealand.