Gatland confessed yesterday that he and his staff discussed asking a front-row forward to feign injury – a move that, having already lost prop Adam Jones to a calf problem, would have led to uncontested scrums. That could have handed a boost to Wales, whose pack had been weakened by the early sending-off of captain Sam Warburton.
The former Wasps and Ireland coach (right) decided against it because “it wasn’t the right thing to do”, and 14-man Wales were edged out 9-8 by France, who meet hosts New Zealand in Sunday’s final, but Gatland’s comments could yet land him in trouble with the IRB.
“We discussed whether we would fake an injury to one of our props and go to uncontested scrums. But morally, I made the decision it wasn’t the right thing to do,” Gatland said.
“We could easily have done that in the first 25-30 minutes, but in the spirit of the game, in the spirit of a World Cup semi-final, I didn’t think that was the fairest or the right thing.”
Gatland, who reiterated his displeasure with referee Alain Rolland’s contentious decision to send off Warburton, received support from Wales Rugby Union chief executive Roger Lewis.
“Warren Gatland should be applauded in this professional era where tough decisions are made that he didn’t go into that particular zone,” said Lewis.
New Zealander Gatland’s admission will prompt comparisons with the Bloodgate scandal of 2009, in which Harlequins staff faked a blood injury to wing Tom Williams in order to bring on a specialist kicker after all their replacements had been used. Quins boss Dean Richards was banned for three years and Williams for four months.
Wales must regroup for Friday’s bronze final against Australia, for which Gatland has handed the captaincy to prop Gethin Jenkins, with Warburton suspended. Ever-present Toby Faletau switches to flanker, with Ryan Jones drafted in at No8 and Alun Wyn Jones afforded a rest.
Record try-scorer Shane Williams has hinted he will shelve plans to retire after the tournament in order to bow out at home in December’s Test against Australia.