Gatland sees the bright side for Wales after big defeat
REACTION: Warren Gatland remained positive despite his second spell as Wales coach starting with a comprehensive 10-34 loss at home to Ireland in a Six Nations opener at Cardiff on Saturday.
Ireland, the world’s No.1 ranked team, scored 22 points in the opening 21 minutes and led 27-3 at the break after blitzing Wales with three first-half tries at the Millennium Stadium.
But Gatland was still smiling at the finish, pledging Wales will improve as he gets more time with the squad.
“They are the best side in the world and they showed that against us,” said Gatland.
“But at the end of the game, I said in my head that I actually wasn’t that disappointed with our performance,” added the New Zealander, who returned to replace compatriot Wayne Pivac after a poor 2022 for Wales in which they lost at home for the first time to both Italy and Georgia and won only three of their 12 Tests.
Gatland, who won four Six Nations titles and three Grand Slams in his first spell as Wales boss between 2007-2019 as well as reaching the Rugby World Cup semifinals twice, said a turnaround was possible.
“There’s a huge amount of upside in us and, in the past, we’ve been able to work hard and fix things. I told the players that’s them [Ireland] at their best today and we just need to be a little more clinical, start better and focus on our discipline.”
‘Under the pump’
Ireland loose forward Calean Doris’ second-minute try silenced the crowd and when James Ryan and James Lowe, with a 70 metre-intercept, added two more it looked like Gatland was in for a long day at the office.
“We were 14 points down and under the pump and the penalty count in that first period was 7-1 [against Wales],” he said.
“It gave them all the momentum to get the start they had.
“I thought the second half was a huge improvement. We spoke about line-speed and coming at them harder and getting our discipline right.
“We did create chances, but we weren’t clinical enough to finish them and the number of injuries for both teams was the same and coming away winning like they did means there is work for us.”
Ireland coach Andy Farrell said he would have snatched someone’s hand of if they had offered him a bonus-point win at a venue when Ireland had not won a Six Nations match since 2013.
“We got what we deserved out of that game,” said Farrell. “I said we had prepared well and that showed.
“Our composure in the first half was great and we were pretty clinical. Our defence also got after them.
“Wales played a pretty expansive game, but our scramble defence was outstanding.”
Two of Wales’ key forwards suffered injuries.
Veteran lock Alun Wyn Jones, the world’s most-capped international, who was making his 156th Wales appearance on Saturday, failed a head injury assessment, while tighthead prop Tomas Francis was laid low by a calf problem.
They are both due to miss next weekend’s second-round match against Scotland in Edinburgh.
Ireland’s victory was all the more impressive as they lost scrumhalf Jamison Gibson Park and reserve prop Cian Healy to hamstring strains shortly before kick-off, with the pair replaced by Conor Murray and Dave Kilcoyne respectively.