Wales can't get stuck in the blocks again, says Sam Warburton

Wales defeated at home by Ireland

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The Independent Online

From the Grand Slam to the grand slump. Ten months on from the champagne moment of Alex Cuthbert's Slam-dunk try against France in Cardiff, the Welsh glass is not so much half full or half empty as half shattered.

From the moment the unfortunate Cuthbert was stitched up kipper-style by Brian O'Driscoll in the lead up to Ireland's opening try, Wales always looked like falling at the first hurdle in this season's Six Nations championship.

Despite a second-half fightback that yielded tries for Cuthbert, Dibble and Grubb – sorry, for Cuthbert, Leigh Halfpenny and Craig Mitchell –Rob Howley's men go to Paris next Saturday on a streak of eight defeats, just two shy of the all-time Welsh record from 2003. At times in the first half on Saturday, as Ireland assumed almost complete control, Wales' interim head coach looked increasingly like a fretful Stan Laurel. His team can ill afford to get into another fine mess when they turn up at the Stade de France.

"These players are all obviously hugely disappointed," Howley said. "The first 25 minutes was frustrating for the coaches and for the players. We need to look at what happened there and take out what was good in the second half, because we certainly played some great rugby and put Ireland under a lot of pressure.

"The key is the first 25 minutes. You need a foothold in the game of international rugby, whoever you're playing against."

Howley's sentiments were echoed by the Wales captain, Sam Warburton. "We have to pick ourselves up and look at what went wrong in those first 25 minutes," Warburton said, "but everyone is very much looking forward to going to France and trying to get a great win out there. That's what we're going to have to do.

"Yeah, it is tough having lost eight games on the bounce but in certain aspects of the game, like the second half, we did exceptionally well. We could have scored more points. We'll take confidence from that," the open-side flanker said.

"A massive emphasis next week will be on starting well. If we do that and play for the majority of the game like we did in the second half against Ireland then we'll have a great chance. The players are desperate to do well."