Rugby's north-south divide is closing - Gatland


The gulf in quality between northern and southern hemisphere rugby is closing, according to Wales coach Warren Gatland.

Wales were beaten 33-18 by New Zealand in Cardiff on Saturday to extend a 64-year winless run in the fixture but more than held their own for long spells and trailed by just one point at half-time.

The match followed the All Blacks' close-run 22-17 win against Scotland last weekend, with Steve Hansen's team unable to dominate the sides on this tour as they have done in the past.

"I think gone are the days, as we saw last weekend, that the All Blacks could comfortably put out a second-string side against Scotland or Wales and still win the game," said Gatland.

"There's still a gap but we'd like to think that the gap is closing a little bit.

"We've got a big game next week against South Africa. We've beaten them on the last two occasions we've played them.

"If we can beat them three in a row, it'll be the first time Wales have beaten South Africa three in a row.

"So we need to learn from the first three weeks we've been together and continue to improve and hopefully come away with a good result next week."

New Zealand wingers Waisake Naholo and Rieko Ioane score two tries apiece as the visitors took their chances at the Principality Stadium, with Anton Lienert-Brown scoring the other.

"I said yesterday that the big challenge for us was that we'd have a good chance of winning if we could contain their wingers - the size, pace and power of their wingers," continued Gatland.

"And unfortunately that was probably the difference between the two sides. They scored four tries between them.

"But, saying that, Steff [Evans] and Hallam [Amos] will have learned a lot from the experience of playing against those guys.

"So a lot of things that we did, particularly in the first half... those players will get better from that experience and learn to be a little bit more clinical."

Gatland even tried to claim Ioane as Welsh, quipping: "I think his grandmother was Welsh, wasn't she? He's not bad is he?"