Gatland set to change winning Wales side again

No sooner had Wales made it two wins out of two under new coach Warren Gatland than the New Zealander was announcing his intention to make changes for their next match.


Wales’s 30-15 victory over Scotland here at the Millennium Stadium came just a week after they ended 20 years of Twickenham hurt with a 27-19 success against England and meant only they and France were left with a chance of completing the coveted Six Nations Grand Slam this season.


But Gatland, who between his first two games in charge had recalled experienced centre Tom Shanklin in place of Sonny Parker and dropped Mark Jones to give a debut to Jamie Roberts, holds no brief for the old adage of ‘never change a winning side’.


Indeed during the course of Saturday’s match, when Wales’s lead had been cut to just two points approaching the final quarter, he took the bold step of replacing half-back pair Mike Phillips and James Hook with the experienced duo of Dwayne Peel and Stephen Jones in a bid to restore a grip on the game, which Jones in particular did.


Now with a two-week break until Wales’s next match, at home to Italy on February 23, Gatland said he was planning to alter his line-up once again.


“I’m not talking about wholesale changes but giving players an opportunity to start. I may even think about naming the team next week so those guys know well in advance who’s playing against Italy,” said Gatland.


Reflecting on Wales’s progress so far under his leadership, the deadpan former Ireland and Wasps coach added: “I don’t think we are going to get the wooden spoon so that’s pretty pleasing.


“No matter what, it gives us a chance to go to Ireland (on March 8) and play for the Triple Crown. There’s a reasonable amount at stake for that game,” said a grinning Gatland, replaced as Ireland coach by current boss Eddie O’Sullivan in controversial circumstances six years ago.


Wales had too much in attack on Saturday for a Scotland side whose only points came from five Chris Paterson penalties.


A typically sharp break, involving fine handling work from Phillips, centre Gavin Henson and full-back Lee Byrne created the first of two tries for wing Shane Williams.


Although Scotland, who unlike Wales reached the World Cup quarter-finals, were only 10-6 down at the break, poor tackling from the visitors opened the way for Hook to score a try early in the second-half after a midfield move had broken down.


But with Paterson keeping Scotland in touch, it wasn’t until 12 minutes from time that Wales pulled away thanks to a breathtaking score from Williams.


The diminutive Ospreys flyer, with hardly any space left to work in on the touchline, beat four men before acrobatically diving in at the corner for his 37th try in 53 matches.


It was no surpise that referee Bryce Lawrence passed the decision onto television match official Carlo Damasco; it was more of a surprise when the Italian awarded the try despite replays appearing to show that Williams’s foot had touched the line.


But it was not just Williams’s finishing which impressed Gatland.


“If I have been critical of him in the past it’s the number of turnovers in his game. He will make breaks but throw the ball away, 50-50 passes, lose the ball in contact,” said the coach.


“The pleasing thing was he was very accurate. When he is accurate we know what he can do one-on-one in a bit of space.” Just as pleasing to a near capacity crowd of over 74,000 was the way in which Wales prevented Scotland crossing their line.


“It really heartened me the crowd were cheering our defence as much as our attack,” said Wales defence coach Shaun Edwards.


“We all look back at the great games of the 70s and remember the tries but we forget it was all built on a rock-solid defence,” the former Great Britain rugby league international insisted.


Gatland, having seen his team puncture one stereotype by g

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

CAPTCHA *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

By continuing to use the site, you agree to the use of cookies. more information

The cookie settings on this website are set to "allow cookies" to give you the best browsing experience possible. If you continue to use this website without changing your cookie settings or you click "Accept" below then you are consenting to this.

Close