Pride and pace, but hold the gloating

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The Independent Online

Wales again showed a huge improvement and the Millennium Stadium enjoyed five superb tries against Italy that were interspersed with announcements of the score from Paris. How happy can a Welsh crowd get? But I would urge great restraint on any gloating because Wales have to go to Twickenham in three weeks time and, for all their progress over the past two matches, they have still a long way to go before they can approach the English with any confidence.

And I doubt if yesterday's result will put England in a generous mood. They will be out to re-assert themselves and Wales will have to put in a great deal of hard work before they are ready to face that challenge.

But a team can only move forward one game at a time and there was much for them to be satisfied with yesterday. Steve Hansen has been working to get the basics right and has a right to be content that his work is already bearing fruit. What they badly needed was a good start and they chased that with such a passion that a return of two tries in the first 11 minutes was the very least they deserved.

But then they took their foot off the pedal and once they did that they were no threat. Wales must realise that speed of action is everything. When you cannot beat people one-on-one you have to have to keep the pace going. Once you let the tempo drop, the ball delivery slows down and it becomes much more difficult to break down defences.

One or two of the familiar Welsh problems were still clearly visible when the game slowed down. They were trying to play from too deep and what they tried was far more intricate than necessary. You have to play what's in front of you with as few frills as possible. There were many occasions yesterday when they created overlaps and then tried to over-complicate simple situations. The line-outs were a bit astray again but the scrum was very solid and the forwards as a unit were very impressive.

The Millennium Stadium crowd, who were much larger than expected, were unusually quiet at the start, which would have sent a message to Wales that they would have to earn their support, and they did so in splendid fashion.

A superb tackle by Tom Shanklin halted an early Italian surge and Craig Morgan set up his thrilling try with a kick ahead and a sprinting chase. Then, Dafydd James spurted over for a try that completed a movement he began deep in his own half and was carried on by Nathan Budgett.

In so many instances the Welsh backs showed great speed and imagination. I was pleased with the way Craig Morgan, Andy Marinos and Rhys Williams attacked space. Williams showed electric pace with a run that left Bergamasco floundering as he raced 50 yards for the line. James, too, showed that when you can run and have the ability to off-load the ball you can cause a lot of damage.

It was good to see Scott Quinnell get his name on the try sheet because he had another good game and it was also encouraging to see the amount of variety Wales attempted to introduce. At one time they put Rob Howley into the line-out to try to steal opposition ball and cause disruption.

Italy scored their two tries at a time when Wales lost concentration. They went to sleep on a tapped penalty that led to Carlo Checchinato scoring. Then a loose ball caused trouble and a couple of Italian players got their feet in to create a chance that Francesco Mazzariol pounced on.

When you are winning and you feel confident of the outcome, it is a temptation to slacken off. But you can't afford to do it in the Six Nations, even if you are playing the weakest side.

Against England they will need to maintain a high tempo for the entire 80 minutes. They have the ability to make a game of it and the pace and enthusiasm among their young backs to cause problems for anyone, but the tempo has to be held. I hope that this is what they'll be working on.

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