Warren Gatland Says Blame Me For Misfire . . . But Warns England Could Embarrass Wales

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Run for it!

Graham Thomas

Graham is a well known sports writer in Wales. He shares with the Eye stories on his other blog at http://www.dai-sport.com
Run for it!

Warren Gatland has warned Wales could be embarrassed by England if they don’t improve from their scratchy victory over Italy.

But the Wales coach has also admitted he may have got it wrong by making so many changes for round two of the Six Nations in Rome.

Wales backed up their victory over France by defeating the Azzurri 26-15 in Rome thanks to second-half tries by wing Josh Adams and centre Owen Watkin.

It equalled the longest unbeaten run in their 138-year Test match history, making it 11 successive victories and matching the sequence set between 1907 and 1910.

But it was a stop-start performance by a misfiring Wales team showing 10 changes from the one that triumphed in Paris eight days ago.

“There are lots of things we need to improve for England,” said Gatland.

“We all need to improve in lots of areas to beat England. They are a pretty good side at the moment.

“If we play like that against England it could be embarrassing – but we won’t play like that, will we.

“With the crowd behind us and another couple of weeks preparation we will be better.

“I probably need to take some criticism myself for making so many changes and perhaps not having the continuity. But the plan all along was to have a double-edge with the Six Nations and the World Cup down the road.

“Sometimes when you reflect you wonder if you would have done things differently and sometimes you would.

“We came here, did a job and got the win. Now we can start thinking about the next two weeks and England in a game that could potentially be a championship decider.

“There are lots of things we need to improve for England. The line-out was a bit concerning. We didn’t have enough tempo at line-out time.

“There were a lot of line-outs off the mark and we had to keep stepping away. Italy were closing that space down pretty quickly. We all need to improve and in lot of areas if we are going to beat England because they are a pretty good side at the moment.

“I thought the loose forward trio worked very hard. There were a few people in the tight five that hadn’t played a lot of rugby and we didn’t have the momentum and tempo we would have liked in that area.

“We are looking at the bigger picture in my last year in charge. It is the Six Nations and looking to build on that to have a good World Cup.

“If we were totally focussed 100% on the Six Nations we might not have made so many changes. We made the changes because we are looking forward as well

Asked if he regretted making wholesale changes, Gatland said: “I don’t regret anything. I was looking at the bigger picture.

“For us as coaches, in our last year, we want to have as good a World Cup as we can. That was the plan all along. There is no regret.

“We are two (wins) from two, and we have a couple of weeks of training before England. It sets us up nicely for the England match.

“A lot of people will be writing us off, which is a good position to be in. Hopefully, we will go under the radar, have two good weeks of training and get ourselves mentally and physically right.

“We didn’t really get out of jail. I don’t think it ever looked like we were going to lose the game, but we weren’t as accurate as we could have been.

“We didn’t speak about the record (11 wins) at all this week, but we will probably talk about it before England.

“If this group of players achieve that, it will be something nobody can take away from them. There will definitely be no lack of motivation in trying to beat England and break that record.”

During the game, the radio link between referee Mathieu Raynal and the television match official appeared not to work in an embarrassing episode for Six Nations chiefs, and when Raynal had to rule on try-scoring moments, a set of headphones were brought on for him to communicate with the TMO.

Wales skipper Jonathan Davies said: “I think there was a breakdown in communication with a technical fault.

“There is always a lot to talk about with things like that. It didn’t affect the result of the game, thankfully.”

Fly-half Dan Biggar kicked 14 points and Gareth Anscombe converted Watkin’s touchdown, but Italy, despite slipping to a 19th successive Six Nations defeat and a 13th on the bounce against Wales, battled hard throughout.

They claimed a first-half try from flanker Abraham Steyn, with fly-half Tommaso Allan kicking a penalty and conversion, before wing Edoardo Padovani crossed late on.

Reflecting on the result, Italy boss Conor O’Shea said: “I am really disappointed.

“I see a group in our changing room that are so driven and have a desire to succeed.

“They know the scale of the challenge, but we will just dust ourselves down.”

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