Welsh must improve for England warns Howley

Mon, 06 Feb 2017 06:37

REACTION: Interim coach Rob Howley called on Wales to "improve in all areas" before facing England after overcoming a tedious first half to secure a 33-7 win over Italy in their Six Nations opener on Sunday.

Wales sit top of the table on points difference after a weekend that saw Scotland stun Ireland and England snatch a comeback win over France.

But Howley, standing in for Warren Gatland while he is on British and Irish Lions duty, said that Wales would need to lift their game before tackling Grand Slam champions England on Saturday in Cardiff.

"We want to improve in all areas," said Howley, who will await assessments on the fitness of flyhalf Dan Biggar and wing George North after both received knocks against Italy.

Biggar failed to return after half-time at Stadio Olimpico with injured ribs and North took a blow to his thigh but played on, in obvious discomfort.

"We use the word relentless, with and without the ball, there were aspects of our game today when we weren't relentless," said Howley.

"We'll have to put England under more pressure than we did against Italy. That's going to be the challenge."

Howley was quick to put the Welsh performance into perspective.

"We know how tough it is to come to Italy. The conditions made it even tougher and we're pleased, but we'll move on quickly and focus on the next one," he said.

"As I said to the players before the game, it's important for us to start competitions well. We haven't [won our opening game] since 2014 so I'm glad from that perspective that we can go into the next game with a little bit more belief and confidence."

Wales were expected to coast against an Azzurri side they had beaten 22 times in 24 encounters, scoring over 60 points on each of their last two Six Nations meetings.

But Italy's shock 20-18 upset of South Africa in November was a reminder of their marked improvement under Irish coach Conor O'Shea and for nearly an hour Wales were on the back foot.

Italy had a 7-3 half-time lead thanks to Edoardo Gori's try and a Carlo Canna conversion, Leigh Halfpenny hitting a penalty for the visitors, and a battling defensive display that had the Welsh attack frustrated.

But a superb second-half display produced 30 unanswered points as Italy, handicapped by Andrea Lovotti being sent to the sin-bin on the hour, paid for ill-discipline - conceding 15 penalties to Wales's five. 

"We have to make sure we change the perception of people who look at us so that we're officiated on a level playing field," said O'Shea.

Italy's transgressions remain "one of the many things we have to get our heads around," said O'Shea.

After Halfpenny hit three penalties in succession Wales were 12-7 ahead before the hour. 

Lovotti's walk to the sin-bin on 60 minutes virtually ended all hope of an Italy fightback as the visitors ran in late tries thanks to Jonathan Davies, Liam Williams and North.

"They're very disappointed because I felt there was a real opportunity at half-time," added O'Shea. "We drained the energy out of ourselves by our ill-discipline."

Ireland are the next opponents for Italy on Saturday, also in Rome. 

Agence France-Presse

There are currently no matches being played
FIXTURE GMT VENUE
Fri, 24 March 2017
Crusaders v Force 06h35 Christchurch
Rebels v Waratahs 08h45 Melbourne
Glasgow Warriors v Connacht 17h15 Scotstoun Stadium
Scarlets v Edinburgh 19h05 Parc y Scarlets
Treviso v Ospreys 19h35 Stadio Monigo
Dragons v Ulster 19h35 Rodney Parade
Sat, 25 March 2017
Blues v Bulls 06h35 Eden Park
Brumbies v Highlanders 08h45 Canberra
Sunwolves v Stormers 10h55 Singapore
Kings v Lions 13h05 Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium
Zebre v Munster 14h00 Stadio Sergio Lanfranchi
Harlequins v Newcastle Falcons 15h00 Twickenham Stoop
Saracens v Bath 15h00 Allianz Park
Leinster v Cardiff Blues 15h00 RDS Arena
Northampton Saints v Leicester Tigers 15h00 Franklin's Gardens
Exeter Chiefs v Sale Sharks 15h00 Sandy Park
Cheetahs v Sharks 15h15 Bloemfontein
Treviso v Ospreys 19h35 Stadio Monigo
Jaguares v Reds 21h40 Buenos Aires
Sun, 26 March 2017
Wasps v Worcester Warriors 14h30 Ricoh Arena
Bristol v Gloucester 15h00 Ashton Gate
Mon, 27 March 2017
NWU-Pukke v UP-Tuks 14h45 Potchefstroom
Fort Hare v UKZN-Impi 16h30 Davidson Stadium
Wits v UCT-Ikeys 16h30 Johannesburg
NMMU-Madibaz v CUT-Ixias 16h30 Bloemfontein
UWC v WSU 16h30 Cape Town
Maties v UJ 17h00 Stellenbosch
SIX NATIONS
MORE LOGS
Team P W D L Pts
England 5 4 0 1 19
Ireland 5 3 0 2 14
France 5 3 0 2 14
Scotland 5 3 0 2 14
Wales 5 2 0 3 10
Italy 5 0 0 5 0