Gatland: 'I think I've got to apologise'
REACTION: Wales coach Warren Gatland believes his side can travel to Twickenham with renewed confidence after a stunning rally in an agonising defeat by Scotland that featured the “worst 40 minutes” of his lengthy coaching career.
Wales were 0-20 down at half-time in their Six Nations opener in Cardiff on Saturday and they fell further behind when Scotland wing Duhan van der Merwe scored the second of his two tries shortly after the break to put the visitors 27-0 up.
But a new-look Wales, missing several senior players through a combination of injury and international retirement, hit back with 26 unanswered points of their own in a four-try salvo in front of a raucous sell-out crowd gathered under the Millennium Stadium’s closed roof.
Wales now face England this coming Saturday, with Steve Borthwick’s side having started their campaign with a narrow win away to Italy, and Gatland said his side could record a first victory at Twickenham since 2015 if they carried on from where they left off against Scotland.
“We’ve just got to play like we did in the second half,” he told S4C.
“We’ve got to learn from that experience.
“They [England] are in a rebuilding phase. We’ll go there with a lot of confidence we can build on that second-half performance and belief. That’s the biggest thing.”
But the first half in Cardiff was a very different story, with Scotland in complete command against an error-strewn Wales.
“I think I have got to apologise for the first half,” said Gatland. “It’s probably one of the worst 40-minute performances in my whole rugby career as a coach.”
The New Zealander added: “We were terrible, shocking. The discipline was poor, and we didn’t nail some things.”
Gatland made changes at half-time, replacements Elliot Dee, Tomos Williams and Ioan Lloyd all starring off the bench in a match where Wales loose forward Aaron Wainwright impressed.
“I think some guys came off the bench and had some impact, we were so slow in the first half, things like opportunities for quick taps to get us back in the game,” said Gatland.
“To do what we did, be 0-27 down, other teams might have shown less character and start thinking about next week, even throw in the towel. We didn’t do that. They kept fighting and put themselves in a position to win. That showed real character.”
Scotland’s grip was severely weakened by two second-half yellow cards. But Gatland was frustrated by a penalty given away by Josh Adams before the break when the Wales wing threw the ball into the crowd to prevent Scotland taking a quick line-out.
Dark Blues captain Finn Russell punished Wales by kicking a penalty, a three-point score that was invaluable in the context of such a close contest.
“When you don’t nail some line-outs and give away stupid penalties, the Josh Adams one was dumb,” said Gatland.
“What’s the difference in the game? It’s Josh Adams throwing the ball over the touchline and being penalised for three points.”