World Rugby boss Brett Gosper has claimed his tweet was "over-interpreted" into partisanship when posting that hosts England failing to reach the World Cup quarter-finals would be "not the words we want to hear".
World Rugby chief executive Gosper drew quizzical responses from Wales when tweeting: “England fail to exit pool in World Cup?...Not the words we want to hear during £RWC2015”.
England must battle it out with Wales and Australia for the two quarter-final places up for grabs in World Cup Pool A, with one major nation set for an early exit this autumn.
Wales coach Warren Gatland replied by saying Gosper “probably doesn’t need to be doing that” – but the Australian World Rugby chief has moved to downplay his social media post.
Gosper conceded he had left his words open to misinterpretation.
“I think it was slightly over-interpreted, some people had some fun with it,” said Gosper. “The simple message was that it’s always nice for a country to do well in a tournament they are organising, it was nothing beyond that. This tournament is already going to be a huge success in terms of ticketing demand across the programmes, but only time will tell to see how well they do, and it’s entirely down to them how they perform.
We’re totally neutral: it’s up to each team to do what they can to get where they want to get in this tournament, and that’s the way it should be. The vast majority of people have understood the spirit, but you can analyse a tweet a bit, and maybe I left myself open to a bit of interpretation and that’s a bit of pity.
But certainly the intention was just to talk about the atmosphere of the tournament, and how that atmosphere is helped by the home team doing well. It’s nothing more beyond that.”
Gosper admitted he may have to tread more carefully on twitter in future, but insisted he had no apology to make.
“The point I was really trying to make, clumsily perhaps, was that organisers of tournaments do like to see the hosts do well. There’s no reliance by the tournament on England’s success or not. From our point of view it’s always nice to see the host team do well. If you leave yourself open to an over-interpretation then you’ve probably gauged your tweet slightly wrongly.
“What’s been good about it is I’ve gained a lot of Welsh followers. There has been a lot of fun banter. I don’t think there’s anything to apologise for.”
Meanwhile Gatland hopes tighthead prop Samson Lee can make this year’s World Cup – despite rupturing his Achilles and facing surgery.
Scarlets forward Lee, 22, is due to have an operation next week after being carried off just 14 minutes into Wales’ RBS 6 Nations victory over Ireland last weekend. Lee will be replaced in the starting line-up by Aaron Jarvis for next Saturday’s Six Nations finale against Italy, when Wales are likely to require a landslide win to have any realistic chance of pipping rivals England and Ireland to the title.
Gatland, meanwhile, has also been forced into a change on the other side of the scrum, with Gethin Jenkins being ruled out by hamstring trouble. Rob Evans takes over from him in Rome for his first Test start.
“It’s 50-50, I think,” Gatland said, of Lee’s World Cup chances. “We have the two warm-up games against Ireland, home and away (in August), and then we have got Italy after the World Cup squad is announced. So look, if he is up and running and in contention and things go well, he won’t be far away. Whether we take the risk in naming him without too much rugby, that is potentially a possibility. Really, it’s just down to the medics.
“For everyone with that sort of injury, it can be two or three weeks either side. I think he is a 50-50 chance at this stage.”
WALES (v Italy in Rome, Saturday): L Halfpenny (Toulon); G North (Northampton), J Davies (Clermont Auvergne), J Roberts (Racing Metro), L Williams (Scarlets); D Biggar (Ospreys), R Webb (Ospreys); R Evans (Scarlets), S Baldwin (Ospreys), A Jarvis (Ospreys), L Charteris (Racing Metro), A-W Jones (Ospreys), D Lydiate (Ospreys), S Warburton (Cardiff Blues, capt), T Faletau (Newport Gwent Dragons).
Replacements: K Owens (Scarlets), R Gill (Saracens), S Andrews (Cardiff Blues), J Ball (Scarlets), J Tipuric (Ospreys), G Davies (Scarlets), R Priestland (Scarlets), S Williams (Scarlets).
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