Gatland issues Wallaby warning
REACTION: Warren Gatland has told Australia his Wales side will improve even further when they face the Wallabies in Cardiff next Saturday after launching their November campaign with a 21-10 victory at home to Scotland.
Tries from George North and Jonathan Davies plus 11 points from the boot of Leigh Halfpenny saw Wales win the inaugural Doddie Weir Cup at the Principality Stadium.
All Scotland could muster in reply was a try from captain Stuart McInally and five points kicked by Adam Hastings.
Wales coach Gatland believes the Scotland win will benefit his team when they look to end a decade-long run of 13 straight defeats by 2019 World Cup pool rivals Australia.
“We will be all the better for that next week and it’s not about getting the monkey off our back with Australia,” insisted Gatland after Wales made a winning start to a November campaign for the first time since 2002.
“There are games against them where we’ve been leading going into the final minutes and we’ve been unlucky at times,” added the New Zealander in charge for Wales’s last win over Australia, a 21-18 success in Cardiff back in 2008.
“It would be nice to win next week, but the more important game will be when we play Australia at the World Cup.”
Gatland added: “If I’m honest, I think we’d have struggled if we’d come up against Australia instead of Scotland in the first game.
“But it’s a start for us, even though we were a bit rusty at times. For long periods of the game we were very comfortable without the ball.
“Scotland put us under pressure in the second half, but we defended very well and there were lots of positives.
“Gareth Anscombe was good in attack. He gave a lovely pass for Jonathan to score. He attacked the line and put players into holes.”
Gatland also brushed off any concerns over Ken Owens after the Wales hooker suffered a nasty head-on-head collision with Scotland’s Ryan Wilson just before half-time.
Owens appeared three minutes into the second half and was later replaced by Elliot Dee, before coming back on when Dee was yellow carded.
“Ken is fine. He has taken a knock on the nose, which was a bleed, and just as a precaution we did an HIA [head injury assessment],” said Gatland.
“He passed that and one after the game as well. Just because you get a knock to the face, it doesn’t mean you’re concussed. Concern is understandable and the welfare of the player is the most important thing.
“It was precautionary to give Ken an HIA because there was some blood. It wasn’t a concussion, it was a whack on the nose.”
Meanwhile Scotland coach Gregor Townsend rued the visitors’ slow start, but insisted a disallowed second-half ‘try’ from replacement Peter Horne should have stood.
“The tries Wales scored were defensive errors,” said Townsend, Scotland’s flyhalf when they last won in Cardiff 16 years ago.
“We didn’t start with the energy which was needed against a good opponent. We had two tries ruled out and it was a game in which we had opportunities to win. I thought Peter had scored.
“Considering his reaction and the fact the ball was underneath him, I did think it was going to be awarded. Obviously it wasn’t.
“We will always look at what we could do better. That was a game where we had enough pressure, territory and opportunities to win,” Townsend, whose side next play Fiji at Murrayfield, added.