Six Nations 2018: Warren Gatland warns Liam Williams to ‘control his emotions’ or risk his Wales place

Full-back looks set to drop out of the team for the Six Nations finale with France this weekend and could yet be cited for his high tackle on Italy's Matteo Minozzi on Sunday

Liam Williams has been told to control his emotions or risk losing his Wales place
Liam Williams has been told to control his emotions or risk losing his Wales place

Liam Williams has been told he must work harder at keeping his cool or risk jeopardising his chances of flourishing on the world stage.

The Saracens star was fortunate to escape with only a yellow card in the 38-14 victory against Italy on Sunday when he launched himself at Azzurri full-back Matteo Minozzi on the stroke of half-time, striking his opponent’s head with his shoulder in the act of tackling him over the line.

Williams, 26, who could yet be cited by Six Nations officials, played no further part in the game as frustrated Wales coach Warren Gatland replaced him on 50 minutes over fears another rash act would leave his side permanently reduced to 14 men.

Wales eventually won the game at a canter, moving above England into second place in the Six Nations table in the process, but Gatland had stern words for a player blessed with enormous natural talent but occasionally prone to hot-headedness.

“No, it is about getting a balance,” Gatland said when asked if Williams moment of madness could cost him his place against France.

“It is about Liam controlling that emotion. In the first half things were not going as well as he would have liked, there are a couple of errors in there and you see him get frustrated. He gave away what I thought was a penalty that did not need to be given away at a breakdown and the tackle at the end – I understand what he was trying to do, he was trying to hit him as hard as he could – there was just a bit of frustration. If he makes that tackle a bit lower there is no problem, but he catches him high and it possibly could have been a red card.

“I have sat him down before. It is not a major issue – it is just how we manage him and the players. I don’t want him to lose that emotion. That’s what makes him as good as he is – he is physical, he has got great work rate, he has great energy and you don’t want to take those things away from him.

“When things aren’t quite going his way he needs to keep control and keep calm. He will work hard on doing that.”

Gatland admitted he was “disappointed” with Williams’ decision to hit Minozzi so high but was considerably more upbeat about George North’s outstanding contribution at the end of a difficult week which saw him publicly criticised by Northampton’s interim director of rugby Alan Gaffney.

North scored two tries and had one disallowed and looks certain to keep his place on the right wing as Wales look to end their Six Nations on a high by beating France in their final game at the Principality Stadium on Saturday.

Williams was shown a yellow card for his high tackle on Matteo Minozzi

With Leigh Halfpenny, who replaced Williams on 50 minutes, expected to return at full-back along with captain Alun Wyn Jones in the second row, Gatland faces a straight choice between the Saracens star and promising youngster Steff Evans on the left wing.

Hooker Elliot Dee impressed on his first Six Nations start while James Davies also grew into the game on his debut, although Blues flanker Josh Navidi is likely to return at No 7 against France.

France's fortunes have improved dramatically since coach Jacques Brunel dropped seven players on disciplinary grounds after a late night drinking session in Edinburgh following the loss to Scotland in round two.

Williams has been told to find a balance in his emotions to avoid future indiscretions

Back-to-back wins over Italy and England will see them arrive in Cardiff in positive mood after a bleak opening to their campaign.

“I hope they have been partying all night in Paris after that win – they deserve it," Gatland said. "They have had a lot of things that have gone against them and even had to regroup in this championship with some players moving out of the squad. You have to take your hat off to Jacques Brunel in terms of the discipline he has brought into the squad. They played like that – they played with discipline against England. They were really direct with the way that they played and deserved to win the match.

“It is going to be a tough game for us, we are pretty happy with the record we have had against France in the past and we know there is an opportunity for us to finish second in the championship which is pretty important for us.”

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