'It is a bitter pill to swallow'
REACTION: Wales’s sixth successive defeat, a 9-32 hammering by Ireland in their Nations Cup opener, is a bitter pill to swallow, said coach Wayne Pivac.
However, the New Zealander insisted he had seen an improvement in the team’s performance from the 10-14 home loss to Scotland in their Six Nations match a fortnight ago.
Pivac has come under immense pressure as the side with largely the same players has been a shadow of the one crowned Grand Slam champions last year and which reached the World Cup semifinals under Warren Gatland.
A team boasting over 800 caps rarely threatened the Irish tryline and conceded nearly 20 penalties.
Wales had just three penalties from veteran Leigh Halfpenny to show on the scoreboard.
“It is a bitter pill to swallow,” said Pivac.
“We are not being beaten by our opponent, we are handing them presents regularly and we need to rectify that.”
Pivac, who said there would be wholesale changes for next week’s game with Georgia, believes the players have the right attitude to turn things round.
☘️ Ireland 32 – 9 Wales 🏴
— Channel 4 Sport (@C4Sport) November 13, 2020
“Obviously as a coach you are concerned by any performance when you don’t get the result you are after,” said Pivac.
“We have had a few of those on the bounce but I think the players will answer the question.
“The preparation has been good and they are working very hard to rectify the errors that are hammering us at the moment.”
Pivac, though, said in his defence it is hard to come in and change a team that had been used to one style of play for over a decade.
Pivac’s tenure at Welsh region Scarlets was known for their expansive play in contrast to the more conservative tactics deployed by Gatland as Wales coach.
“I am looking to change what we have done for over 10 years and mindsets do not change overnight in my experience,” he said.
“We believe in it [our strategy] and we will roll our sleeves up on Monday.
“We are working towards the 2023 World Cup.”
Ironically, Pivac found the most pleasing part of Wales’s play against the Irish was their defence – coming days after defence coach Byron Hayward was let go.
“There are a lot of disappointed players in the dressing room,” he said.
“They put in a hell of a shift.
“It was a hell of a defensive effort and speaks volumes for the group.”
His Ireland counterpart Andy Farrell could bask in his side bouncing back from defeat by France a fortnight ago which dashed their hopes of the Six Nations title.
The 45-year-old Englishman proclaimed it a “dominant performance” although there were plenty of errors too by the Irish.
He was especially heartened by the Test debut of livewire New Zealand-born wing James Lowe and his compatriot scrumhalf Jamison Gibson-Park making his first start after two appearances off the bench.
Lowe scored Ireland’s second and final try in the dying seconds, due reward for an eye-catching first go in the green jersey.
Farrell, though, admitted it will be a taller order taking on their next opponents England at Twickenham.
They were well beaten by them earlier this year at Twickenham in the Six Nations after posting a home win over Wales.
“We have to be more clinical,” said Farrell.
“There were a few chances that went begging.”
Farrell said he believed captain Johnny Sexton would be fit for the England clash.
The star flyhalf awaits a scan on a hamstring on Saturday to ascertain the extent of the damage.
Sexton had a nightmare against England earlier this year says next week’s match will give them a good indication of how they are progressing under Farrell.
“It is a massive challenge and a great fixture for us to see how far we have come in… is it eight months? It seems like three years,” he said.
“We can be very proud of our performance this evening [Friday] but we can be better and need to be at Twickenham.”