Wales must keep things simple if they are to progress to being an outstanding team, coach Warren Gatland said on Sunday.
And the 48-year-old New Zealander, who guided his side to last year’s World Cup semi-finals and the 2009 Grand Slam, believes their last gasp 23-21 defeat of Ireland in their Six Nations opener will give them real momentum going into next weekend’s home game with Scotland.
A last minute penalty by Leigh Halfpenny — after Irish flanker Stephen Ferris was yellow carded for a questionable spear tackle — accounted for the hosts.
“This gives us a massive amount of confidence and momentum for next weekend’s match,” said Gatland, who is also a former coach of Ireland and left under acrimonious circumstances in 2000 when his contract was not renewed.
“We are very dangerous when we have our backs to the wall like we were against Ireland but we are also very dangerous when we are confident.
“There is a lot of improvement to come in our game. What I tell the guys is be accurate, do the simple things well. If we do that then I think we will do really well in this championship.”
Welsh captain Sam Warburton, whose spear tackle in the World Cup semi-final against France lead to his red card which changed the complexion of the match, said that even though Scotland lost to England on Saturday it did not make them easy opposition.
“Playing Scotland two years ago it was a really tough match and we know we have to improve a bit next week,” said the 23-year-old flanker, who did not appear for the second-half because of a dead leg.
“We do feel we have more in us but we are very happy in that we finished strongly and that’s a real boost for us psychologically as the toughest part of test rugby is the last 20 minutes.”
While Warburton will not know until Tuesday whether he will be fighting fit for the Scotland game, Gatland was all but resigned to having to replace lock Bradley Davies.
Davies received just a yellow card for a more evident spear tackle, than Ferris’, off the ball as well on Irish replacement lock Donncha Ryan which Gatland himself believed should have been a straight red.
“It certainly didn’t look good on the replay,” said Gatland.
“We have to plan for him not being available as it doesn’t look brilliant I won’t deny that.
“However, we can fill the second row for instance with Lou Reed and there are also some players looking like they are on their way back to fitness.”
As to who takes the place kicks next weekend Gatland was not sure as he blamed himself for asking Rhys Priestland to fill that role, as the fly-half was off form after being out with a knee injury.
After he had missed three kicks at goal Gatland kept him on the pitch but decided Halfpenny should take the placekicks.
“I criticise myself for putting too much pressure on Rhys,” said Gatland.
“He hasn’t played recently but aside from the kicking I thought he was excellent in the second-half. He showed great composure in getting us into the field position from where we eventually were awarded the penalty.”
For Gatland, though, the message for his superb backs — he highlighted wing George North who set up the second try and scored their third as being world class — was the same as what was said at half-time of the Irish match.
“We told the boys at half-time in this match to run hard and stay square and they would make inroads. And having listened to that, they did just that.” — AFP