Gatland delighted with Wales win despite growing injury list

Stuart Lancaster ‘disappointed’ with England defeat as Australia loom

 

Pinned against the ropes for much of the first 45 minutes and again in the last ten with a makeshift backline in which only two players finished the game in the positions they started, Wales came out swinging. The effect was a very Welsh coup.

Afterwards, stunned English fans wandered around the outskirts of Twickenham, some mingling with Welshmen drunk on delirium.

Mingling with them was Warren Gatland and his wife Trudy, as the Welsh coach attempted to make his way from the media zone to the post-match marquee for the two squads. Unusually emotive and hoarse from the celebrations after the full-time whistle, he readily posed for handshakes, hugs and photos, and for a quick word with The Irish Times.

Sum it up? “It was only a pool game,” he quipped, as mischievous as ever. But this latest comeback underlined Wales’s big-game mentality. They are the ultimate 80-minute team.

“At half-time the message was, ‘We’ve been here before. Don’t panic’. We changed tactically and attacked the ‘13’ channel and played a bit of rugby and then just hung in there.”

A master of preparing sides for one-off big games, this win was right up there, he said.

Long-term injuries

Jonathan DaviesLeigh HalfpennyCory AllenLiam Williams

James Hook is a possible call-up, while there’s the potential for shifting George North to the centre.

But Gatland and his backroom team have “done so much planning for this in the last 12-18 months. We’ll give the boys Sunday and Monday off, train Tuesday, have a captain’s run on Wednesday and then pitch up on Thursday. We did this before we won in Dublin,” he said, referring to the warm-up win over Ireland.

“I think we’ll get a lot of confidence from this win. If we beat Fiji, that puts quite a bit of pressure on England. They’ve got to beat Australia or else this pool could be decided before the final weekend.”

There have been whisperings that Wales’s intense physical training for ten weeks is a contributory factor to their injury toll, but it looks more like bad luck. But their fitness levels in the final quarter of this punishing game sure held up.

Gatland’s counterpart, Stuart Lancaster, hardly slept a wink on Saturday night at England’s Pennyhill retreat.

“I didn’t sleep much – I was lying awake thinking about it,” he said yesterday. “We were 22-12 up at one point and to go from that position after 50-odd minutes to lose the game is very disappointing.”

Enormous pressure

“The players decided to go to the corner,” said Lancaster, and there was the distinct impression he’d have preferred to go for the posts. “They made that decision, they’ve all said they back that decision but ultimately it didn’t come off on this occasion.”

“It is for me to assess that with the players in the privacy of our review. I can see why they did it but equally you can see quite clearly that Owen had been kicking well. But it was a difficult kick.

“I come to the point that games are not won and lost on one moment. We were 22-12 up and from that point on, we shouldn’t have allowed that gap to close like we did. The try that they scored at 25-18 was definitely a try we could have avoided.”

Robshaw’s leadership, he said, was not an issue. “No. We back the captain and we back all the players; we always have done and we always will.”

The revamped selection didn’t work, and the problem now is: what do they do next?

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