Gatland shows why Wales are fit to wear Crown


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The Independent Online

Stuart Lancaster, the temporary red-rose coach who would surely have secured something more permanent had this been a 70-minute contest, could be heard talking afterwards about "small margins", and the margins were indeed tiny.

Had the visiting captain Sam Warburton mistimed his wonderful try-saving tackle on Manu Tuilagi by so much as a millisecond; had Mike Brown carried the ball a yard further in the last move of the match; had the television match official Iain Ramage been blessed with slightly better eyesight ... had any of these things happened, it might have been different.

As it was, Scott Williams' try five minutes from time sealed the Triple Crown for Wales

Lancaster's opposite number, Warren Gatland, made the point that Wales, once the worst-conditioned side in the elite international game, are now so fit that final half-hours have ceased to be their enemy and have become their friend instead.

Gatland said: "Was I surprised at the way England lived with the tempo? If I'm honest, I think the tempo was the difference.

"This all goes back to last summer and the work we did in Poland before the World Cup. In terms of fitness, I would put us right up there with the big southern hemisphere nations. It's amazing, the way your skills seem to improve the fitter you are."

Wales won because they were able to accelerate the pace and increase the intensity of the encounter in the second period despite losing Rhys Priestland, their outside-half and principal game-shaper, to the sin bin.

The victory was not secure until Ramage decided he could not be sure David Strettle had grounded the ball, but the video referral would not have been necessary if Brown had released him a split-second earlier.

Not that Lancaster and his colleagues should stay annoyed for long. This was England's best performance since the opening Six Nations game in Cardiff a little over a year ago.

Geoff Parling, Ben Morgan and Lee Dickson all impressed while Owen Farrell, starting at No 10 for the first time for England, was a revelation to all those who had not already seen he was a 50-cap fly-half in the making.

Scorers: England: penalties Farrell 4. Wales: try Williams; conversion Halfpenny; penalties Halfpenny 4.