By Kasey Rees
It was a disappointing end to Warren Gatland’s final match as Wales coach at the Principality Stadium.
After a poor first half for the home side, they looked likely to threaten a comeback towards the end of the second, but it was Ireland who spoiled the farewell party.
Second half tries from Owen Lane and Rhys Patchell weren’t enough to secure victory for Wales and although the makeshift team gave a more promising second 40 minutes, Ireland claimed a 22-17 victory.
The loss means Wales will drop to fourth in the World Rugby rankings – losing their number one spot to New Zealand, who regaining top billing. After the five-point win for Ireland,Joe Schmidt’s team will rise from fourth to second, with England above Wales in third place.
Warren Gatland admitted he wasn’t expecting that performance after training well all week.
“We missed a tackle and they have scored,” he said. “We’re encouraging players to off-load, and we told Aaron Shingler he made the right decision. But the execution was poor.
“Were not disappointed with the decision making we just need to keep improving in execution. We have given away nine set piece penalties and that’s disappointing. We got back into it and, with another four or five minutes I think we would have had a good chance of winning. It’s disappointing, but not the end of the world.
“We have got some work to do. We will look at some clips, get some clarity. We have sent clips to referees and had some feedback from our first two games. We see our pictures and see theirs. How many referees played in the front-row? It’s tough.
“But overall I am happy with what we got out of today. The fitness was excellent and we finished strong, but it’s a warm up game for the World Cup and we got what we wanted out of today.
“This will be the best squad that I will have taken to the World Cup.”
When asked about his favourite moment of being a Wales coach in Cardiff, Gatland couldn’t resist taking a dig at Eddie Jones and England.
“Any time you beat England! They have so many players to choose from. They have a massive forward pack and a big back line.
“Those wins are pretty special. Winning a Grand Slam here is always a special moment, too.”
Sadly for him, Gatland’s experimental team failed to achieve his final home win, after perhaps trying too hard to impress the boss.
But the New Zealander remains positive going into Sunday’s squad announcement of the 31 players who will go to Japan.
He added: “If we do pick up injuries, like we did in 2015, I think we would be able to cope so much better now. The expectation from ourselves is that we’ll be very disappointed if we don’t make the quarter finals.”
After today’s match it remains to be seen whether Cory Hill joins the squad on the plane.
Gatland revealed the Dragons forward – who has not played since Wales beat England in the Six Nations in March – has a small fracture in his leg.
It means even if he is taken, he could miss the opening two or three matches at the tournament.
Ross Moriarty has a hip injury, picked up in training, which forced him to drop out from the replacements bench against Ireland but Gatland does not consider it a major worry that will effect his readiness for Japan.
Gatland is due to make his final 31-man squad announcement on Sunday 2nd September at 2pm.
Wales: H Amos, O Lane, S Williams, O Watkin, S Evans, J Evans, A Davies, R Carre, R Elias, S Lee, A Beard, B, Davies, A Shingler , J Davies, J Navidi (CAPT)
Replacements: E Dee for Ellias (62), R Evans on for Carre (HT), L Brown on for Lee (HT), J Ball for B Davies (49), A Wainwright on for Shingler (62), T Williams on for A, Davies, R Patchell on for J Evans (HT), J Holmes.
Ireland: W Addison, A Conway, C Farrell, B Aki, J Stockdale, J Carty, K Marmion, D Kilcoyne, N Scannell, John Ryan, I, Henderson, James Ryan, T Beirne, P O’Mahony (CAPT), J Conan.
Replacements: R Best for Scannell (52), A Porter for Kilcoyne (45), T Furlong on for John Ryan (52), J Murphy for O’Mahony (60), L McGrath for Marmion (60), G Ringrose on for Addison (58), D Kearney for Stockdale (HT) D, Toner for James Ryan (52)