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‘We’re in a good place’ – Gatland

Warren Gatland doing his round of post match interviews

‘We’re in a good place’ – Gatland

Warren Gatland had very good reason to smile as he left Principality Stadium on Saturday night having seen his side beat England 20-9 in the first of three warm-up games for the Rugby World Cup. 

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He had blooded five new caps, seen the hard work of the past 12 weeks shine through and his side hit back in the second half to score two tries and 14 points without reply.  

“I was a little bit apprehensive in the morning because I wasn’t quite sure how things were going to go. I knew the players had been working hard and so I was looking for a performance,” he admitted.

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“It was a good start, and we’ll take a lot of confidence moving forward from this game. There will probably be a lot of changes for Twickenham and if we had to pick our best XV tomorrow there are only about three names nailed on.” 

The competition for places has really developed and Gatland and his coaching team now have grater options than they’ve had in the recent past. It is Twickenham next weekend and then the second Vodafone Summer Series clash against the world champion Springboks to complete the build-up for France. 

“I was looking for a performance rather than a win and there were some really good individual performances out there. We looked comfortable in the last 20 minutes,” added Gatland. 

“I felt some of the English forwards were blowing a bit just before half-time. We wanted a little bit more line speed in the second half because in the first half we weren’t quick enough, and England got more quick-ball and were able to play a bit. 

“We slowed down their momentum and we got some real pace and intensity into our game in the second half. The line out was good, the line out defence was good and the physicality and carrying was good. We still have lots of things to work on and lots of things to add, but I think we ae in a good place 

“I thought Jac Morgan was outstanding and Aaron Wainwright had his best game in a Wales jersey. We’ve spoken a lot about Jac and where he’ll play and we see him as a seven. 

“There’s good competition there with Tommy Reffell and Taine Basham. Going forward, it’s about making sure we have that balance of physicality and size that’s needed in the back-row. 

“We also needed No6s who are good lineout options. We haven’t been blessed with numbers and choices in the past but we are working towards that.

“The two second rows were outstanding, but the scrums were a bit messy. We need a bit of clarification on that. 

“Sam Costelow grew into the game and will have learned from that experience and the new caps were great. You can’t coach experience in Test match rugby, they have to learn by being out there and they will all have learned a lot.” 

The penalty count was below 10, there were fewer missed tackles than England and the margin of victory could have been greater had Louis Rees-Zammit not had his magnificent try-scoring effort finally ruled out on review. 

Skipper Jac Morgan led by example and was his side’s top tackler with 25 – one of which stopped his opposite number Tom Pearson dead in his tracks before the Englishman was unceremoniously dumped backwards. 

“As Shaun Edwards often said, defence is just 80 per cent about being fit. I think the boys showed the work we’ve done over the summer means we are in a pretty good place physically, said Gatland. 

“There’s a lot more we can get better at in terms of some game execution. We will learn from today’s experience.” 

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