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'You just have to draw a line in the sand and move on' - Gatland hails Wales' reaction to Howley controversy

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Wales attack coach Stephen Jones (left) and head coach Warren Gatland before the 2019 Rugby World Cup Pool D match at City of Toyota Stadium, Japan. David Davies/PA Wire.

Wales attack coach Stephen Jones (left) and head coach Warren Gatland before the 2019 Rugby World Cup Pool D match at City of Toyota Stadium, Japan. David Davies/PA Wire.

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Wales attack coach Stephen Jones (left) and head coach Warren Gatland before the 2019 Rugby World Cup Pool D match at City of Toyota Stadium, Japan. David Davies/PA Wire.

Warren Gatland paid tribute to his Wales players after they saw off Georgia 43-19 in their first World Cup pool game following a week dominated by the departure of their attack coach Rob Howley from Japan.

Howley, who has been Gatland's assistant since 2008, was sent home early last week after allegations of betting offences emerged. An investigation will take place after the World Cup but for now, the Grand Slam champions are concentrating on matters on the pitch, and Gatland was delighted with their opening effort.

Tries from Jonathan Davies, Justin Tipuric, Josh Adams and Liam Williams secured a bonus point before half-time before Tomos Williams and George North capped off the win.

Next up for Wales is a mouthwatering battle with Australia on Sunday, but for now, Gatland was happy that his players had moved on from the controversy surrounding Howley.

"You just have to draw a line in the sand and move on," he said.

"You can't change the past and what has happened. You have to look forward.

"I said to the players beforehand, I thought they've been outstanding this week. The way they have prepared for this match, the way they've trained.

"It was definitely strange (without Howley). You've just got to give Stephen (Howley's replacement, Stephen Jones) as much support as you possibly can.

"He has fitted in seamlessly. He's been doing a good job."

Wales number eight Josh Navidi added: "It's disappointing whatever came out - thoughts go to Rob and his family.

"It would be nice to have him here, but hopefully he is pleased with the way we played."

In one sour note from Wales' win, Gatland revealed that second row Cory Hill might miss the remainder of the tournament through injury.

"If he doesn't return to fitness, he will go back to the UK," Gatland said.

"We're going to assess him tomorrow and see what sort of progress he has made.

"If it's not good news, he will go back. If they think he can recover, then he will stay out. We are going to assess that overnight."

Reflecting on the result, Georgia head coach Milton Haig said: "Regardless of the result, if Georgia wants to progress in the quality of how it plays its rugby, a competition like the Six Nations is absolutely vital.

"You can't play a team like Wales in the World Cup and expect us to produce miracles if we are not used to playing at this speed.

"Twenty nine points (conceded) in the first half show us that if we make a mistake, good teams like this will kill you. "Even if we don't get in the Six Nations, Georgia needs to have at least four matches a year to play against these Tier 1 teams. And then we can be competitive.

"But until that happens, unfortunately for us these types of results will just keep on happening."

Online Editors