Ireland

Gatland takes it on the chin

Sun, 09 Feb 2014 08:56
Sam-warburton-_-wayne-barne
We will take a long, hard look at ourselves
Quote-end

Wales coach Warren Gatland admitted he had no excuses after watching Ireland maul the two-time defending Six Nations champions at Lansdowne Road at the weekend.

The visitors suffered their worst tournament defeat since 2006, and took 56 minutes to score; Leigh Halfpenny's penalty helping them avoid a humiliating whitewash.

Defeat dealt a huge, but not fatal, blow to Wales's hopes of becoming the first side to win three successive Six Nations titles.

Ireland's tactics 'surprised' Gatland, the Kiwi born coach admitted, but their ill discipline and lack of effectiveness at the breakdown also cost Wales dearly.

"We were well beaten by a better team today [Saturday], there's no excuses, it was a very disappointing display from us," said Gatland, a former Ireland coach.

"But hats off to Ireland, they played very well. They dominated us up front, mauled very well, were strong at breakdown, they made it very difficult.

"Two things were probably most disappointing; our discipline, we conceded a lot of penalties, and that gave them the opportunity to kick to touch and then get driving line-out going.

"We spoke a lot about being hard on our line-out defence, but we weren't good enough, and as the players take responsibility, we as coaches have to do it too.

"We have to show some character to bounce back for the next game against France."

Gatland had dominated much of the build up to this game, following his decision to drop Brian O'Driscoll in the final British and Irish Lions test last year, but as expected, that had little or no impact on the on-field action.

Instead, it was Joe Schmidt's tactics - based on predictions of bad weather that ultimately didn't arrive, that was the key talking point post-match.

"They possibly surprised us, and it was effective," said Gatland, alluding to Schmidt's usual fondness for open, attacking play.

"I can't remember any occasion when they moved the ball through the backline to open us up. They kicked the leather off it, there was a lot of one-pass rugby out there, but they also dominated up front, so we have to take that on the chin."

Sexton punished Welsh indiscipline in the opening 20 minutes, kicking two penalties and then causing mayhem in defence with one of many tactical kicks deep into Welsh territory.

Chris Henry's first Irish try arrived following a planned line-out maul, and Sexton's penalties kept the scoreboard ticking over, until Paddy Jackson added a second try in the dying minutes.

Gatland promised to take a long, hard look at his team after the Six Nations title holders fell to a humiliating 26-3 defeat by Ireland on Saturday.

Wales conceded 15 penalties and allowed Ireland to turn over the ball 10 times in an error-prone two-try loss, their first away defeat in the tournament since 2011.

"We weren't good enough today [Saturday]. We weren't at the races.

"We will take a long, hard look at ourselves," Gatland told reporters.

"This was probably one of most disappointing performances I've been involved with as Welsh coach," he added.

Wales came into the match one win from matching France's record of six consecutive Six Nations victories, but now need either Ireland or France to drop points if they are to have a chance of retaining the championship they won in 2012 and 2013.

Asked whether Wales still had a chance to win, he said: "It's tough for us.

"It's one step at a time. We won't be looking forward at whether we can win the six nations, we'll be making sure the performance improves against France."

The victory hands momentum to Ireland, who lost four of their five games last year, but are enjoying a resurgence under new coach Joe Schmidt.

"This tournament is about confidence and building momentum and Ireland seem to have that at the moment" Gatland said. "For us it's about bouncing back and showing some character."

Wales's Sam Warburton was gracious in defeat.

"We were definitely outplayed, full credit to Ireland they were fantastic really," said the flank.

"Now it will be a real test of character for us to pull ourselves together for the France match in a fortnight."

Warburton, though, said their dreams of a third successive title were far from over.

"We won the title with four wins last year and we can do the same this year."

AFP

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