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'I thought the scoreline probably isn't right'

SPOTLIGHT: Wales head coach Warren Gatland adopted an optimistic tone ahead of the Six Nations home match with France in a fortnight saying his side “can take a huge amount” out of Saturday’s 7-31 defeat to Ireland.

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Gatland’s outfit are still seeking a first win in this year’s championship, the Ireland loss was the 10th in their last 11 Six Nations matches and their heaviest defeat of the campaign.

Just as in the losses to Scotland (26-27) and to England (14-16) his largely inexperienced team showed spirit against the title holders.

Thanks to some steely defence in the first-half they restricted a dominant Ireland to a 17-0 lead at the break, and could have been closer but for a couple of slapdash errors inside the Ireland 22.

Worryingly for Gatland, it was the third time in six halves of the Six Nations that Welsh had failed to register a point.

However, despite giving Ireland more of a tussle in the second half, the hosts always seemed to be able to go up a gear and did so in the final 15 minutes

“I think we take a huge amount,” said Gatland.

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“We showed some great heart and character.

“I thought the scoreline probably isn’t right, but it probably reflects where the two sides are in terms of experience.

“We’ll just keep working as hard as we can.”

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The 60-year-old New Zealander has past form in building a formidable Wales side as he did in his first spell in charge.

Taking over after a disastrous 2007 World Cup he forged a team that went on to win the Six Nations title four times – including three Grand Slams.

He maintained he had seen progress in their performance against the Irish and drew on his playing days as to how fortunes can be turned around.

‘Played bloody tough’

Gatland said they took the defeat on the chin, learned from it and a couple of years later earned their reward.

“We ended up turning the tables on them,” said Gatland.

“I have no doubt where we’re going, this team is going to be an excellent team going forward, when we get some more experience.”

The former hooker, who has had to cope with the absence through injury of his co-captains from last year’s World Cup, Jac Morgan and Dewi Lake, was particularly enthused by the manner in which his side defended.

“We spoke at half-time and said that basically they didn’t trouble us in phase play,” he said.

“They really didn’t for that first half.

“That was something we worked really hard on all week, in terms of identifying when they were sweeping around with players, loosening off defensively.

“On the whole, we did a really good job of it.”

Wales captain Dafydd Jenkins had spoken prior to the match of how uncomfortable he was with Wales being cast as underdogs.

However, Ireland skipper Peter O’Mahony said based on his experience it serves as motivation.

“We’ve been the other side of that card with Ireland – I certainly have – going in as underdogs and it’s a nice place to be,” he said.

“You can get stuck in and I thought they certainly did that.

“There were times when they put us under pressure and times when we could have turned the screw with our attack but they were good defensively.”

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