Warren Gatland Takes 50th Win For Wales And Plots Twickenham Ambush For No.51

A rejuvenated Warren Gatland is intent on reviving some of his best memories with Wales when he goes to Twickenham to take on England next week.

Gatland appeared to have lost some of his sparkle during the autumn series after a draining Lions series, but the old belligerent energy seemed back in force as he looked ahead to the next Six Nations game following his team’s 34-7 demolition of Scotland.

Wales have not beaten England in the Championship since 2013, but for Gatland there would be a nice symmetry if his second decade in charge was to begin with a victory at the home of the old enemy, just as he won on his first visit there in 2008.

England will have watched Wales and been forced to re-assess that it is not only Ireland who will pose a genuine threat to their chances of winning a third successive championship.

The Scots had arrived in Cardiff with a big build-up and lots of talk about a breakthrough season that might begin with ending their 16-year losing sequence at the venue.

It was just the kind of disregard for his own team and coaching ability that Gatland takes personally – and he enjoyed rubbing Scottish noses into the dirt immediately after Wales’ four tries to one bonus-point victory.

It could easily have been 50 points to nil and Scotland would have had no reason to complain.

“We expected to win and to win comfortably and we can get better before next week,” said Gatland with a wide glare in his eye.

“Twickenham is a venue where we have had lots of success in the last 10 years and we are looking forward to going there.”

The bonus point victory was Gatland’s 50th win in charge of Wales, whilst Halfpenny’s individual tally of 24 points was a personal best in Test rugby.

Warren Gatland. Pic: Getty Images.

The Lions full-back scored a try in either half and nailed six kicks from six attempts. With Gareth Davies and Steff Evans also helping themselves to tries it meant a comfortable opening day for Wales, who also bombed two further scores and let Scotland replacement Peter Horne in for a soft try neat the end.

“It was an afternoon that I was expecting, the guys have been outstanding in their preparation and we did go into the game expecting to win and win reasonably comfortably,” said Gatland.

“I said to the chief executive [of the WRU, Martyn Phillips] that the guys will win by 20, he looked a little bit shocked but that was how well we trained.

“I thought that we defended superbly against a lot of Scottish attacking threats. We coped with that, there was a soft try at the end but our defence was outstanding.

“Getting the bonus point was pretty pleasing as well and we probably left two or three tries out on the pitch as well.

“There is some improvement to do and hopefully as a squad we’ll get better for next week.

“We never spoke at all about injuries or players being unavailable,” said Gatland. “I said to the players this week that there were no excuses.

“Players that were coming in all believe in their own ability, a lot of them think they are better than those not involved.

“We lost Jake Ball but Cory Hill is one of the most-improved players in Wales, Ross Moriarty is in for Taulupe Faletau, Josh Navidi was outstanding in the autumn and there is a lot of competition in that position, Gareth Davies is in for Rhys Webb, Jonathan Davies is out but Scott Williams was in midfield while the two wingers have been playing with a lot of confidence.

“There are going to be some tough decisions and it’s nice to be having that competition in the squad and quality players fighting it out.”

Gatland paid tribute to Halfpenny, who had gone five years without scoring a try for his country until this game when the drought was suddenly ended.

Leigh Halfpenny. Pic: Getty Images.

“To me, Leigh Halfpenny is the best defensive full back in the world. His work rate is absolutely phenomenal. But it’s so pleasing to see him get some confidence from an attacking perspective.”

Horne replied late on for the Scots but a pained coach Gregor Townsend admitted: “We need to have a response throughout this week.

“That was miles below what we know we are capable of, what we need to do in this jersey, and what we are capable of in this Championship.

“That was well short of what is required. We have to be much, much better.”

Scotland captain John Barclay looked devastated after suffering a hammering at

the hands of 10 of his Scarlets teammates.

“That was not very good, obviously,” admitted Barclay.

“We didn’t defend particularly well, our line-out creaked a bit, too and we made far too many mistakes.

“We believed we could get back into the game at half time at 14-0 down. But right now it’s hard to understand why we couldn’t. I thought Wales put a lot of pressure on us. We coughed up too much ball.

“They ended up playing a lot like the Scarlets, but we made a lot of mistakes. We have to look at ourselves as we didn’t perform anywhere near like we did in the autumn.”

 

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