Wales ready to pounce on any slip ups by England and Ireland in race for Six Nations title, says Warren Gatland

Saturday's defeat at Twickenham leaves Wales requiring mistakes from the sides ahead of them to challenge for the championship title

Sam Peters
Sunday 11 February 2018 23:07
Comments
Wales captain Alun Wyn Jones addresses the team after defeat at Twickenham
Wales captain Alun Wyn Jones addresses the team after defeat at Twickenham

Warren Gatland may have seen his team robbed of the chance of another famous Twickenham victory but the Wales head coach remains confident their hopes of another Six Nations championship have not been fully extinguished.

Saturday’s agonising 12-6 defeat to England, overshadowed by the decision of the television match official Glenn Newman not to award Gareth Anscombe a 23rd minute try when he clearly grounded the ball ahead of Anthony Watson, leaves Wales needing others to falter to stand a chance of claiming the title.

Unbeaten Ireland are up next in Dublin on Saturday week when Gatland hopes to be able to call on the services of Dan Biggar, Liam Williams and Leigh Halfpenny, whose late withdrawal with an infected foot saw Anscombe drafted in at full back, although Taulupe Faletau’s chances of recovering from injury in time are less positive.

The furore over Newman’s erroneous call meant the verve and dynamism Wales brought to their second-half performance was partially overlooked but with bonus points secured in each of their opening two games, including last Saturday’s crushing defeat of Scotland, Gatland’s men will travel to Dublin in optimistic mood.

“We were pleased with how strong we finished the game,” he said. “And considering we still think we are 20-25 per cent off being as fit and as sharp as we will be by the time the World Cup comes around, and we spend time together, we are in a pretty good place. We are building some depth in the squad. I think we are in a pretty good place.

“We are pretty pleased with where we are at. We will get better as a side, and those players will get better, and when we’ve got the opportunity to bring some of that experience back into the team it will continue to make us stronger as well.”

While England’s victory, built off the back of two superbly crafted first-half tries for winger Jonny May, leaves Eddie Jones’s men unbeaten and on course for a record third successive Six Nations title, there was a sense of frustration among home fans as the effects of a six-day turnaround took their toll in the second half.

“In the first half, we probably tried to shift the ball on too many occasions when it was too difficult to do that, and made it a little bit easier for them to defend,” Gatland said. “In the second half, some of their players started to tire, the weather conditions got a bit better and we started to open up a little bit.”

Jonny May scores England's opening try at Twickenham

For England, Mike Brown enjoyed a fine afternoon’s work – although Jones’s unnecessary post-match rant during a BBC radio interview about a perceived lack of media appreciation for the veteran full back took some of the shine off his man-of-the-match display – while Sam Underhill’s try-saving second-half tackle on Scott Williams will live long in the memory.

But overall England know they have plenty they can improve on as they prepare to face Scotland at Murrayfield.

“England have won their first two games, so they are in a good position to potentially go and win the Grand Slam,” Gatland said. “We are out of that at the moment, which is disappointing, so you are relying on someone else to slip up.

“For us, the important thing is making sure we continue to get better as a team, and those players from the experience of today, and we go to Ireland and improve on today’s performance. The Championship could come down to points difference, so being in it for that last weekend, hopefully, and someone loses or slips up.”

George North’s second-half cameo means he will almost certainly be in contention for a starting spot in Dublin while Liam Williams first game for Saracens since he aggravated a hip injury against Ospreys last month was also encouraging for Gatland.

With Anscombe also impressing in the second half when he took over from Rhys Patchell at fly-half and Biggar potentially back in the mix, the Wales coach has plenty of selection options to consider for the final three games of the tournament.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Please enter a valid email
Please enter a valid email
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Please enter your first name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
Please enter your last name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
You must be over 18 years old to register
You must be over 18 years old to register
Opt-out-policy
You can opt-out at any time by signing in to your account to manage your preferences. Each email has a link to unsubscribe.

By clicking ‘Create my account’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

Comments

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in