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Warren Gatland’s 15-Month Wales Rebuild Now In Danger Of Worst Six Nations For 21 Years

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By Paul Jones

Soft tries, a retreating scrum and poor game management were all to blame for Wales’ latest Six Nations loss to France on Sunday as coach Warren Gatland conceded next weekend’s home clash with Italy is “massive” as they aim to avoid the wooden spoon.

Wales were in the game for an hour but lost 45-24 as the visitors turned the screw in the final quarter with their massive pack and forced Wales into errors, which they converted into points.

“It is disappointing as there were some soft points that were given away. We probably hurt ourselves by not managing the game properly in the last period,” said Gatland.

“They put our scrum under pressure. Something we have been working hard on but not there at the moment. I thought our line out was excellent. We didn’t help ourselves by some of the mistakes we made.

“We were up 24-23 but we didn’t manage the game with turnovers and we are disappointing with some soft points given away.

“We probably overplayed. When we were down by six points and you’re thinking just play territory make it easy for yourselves, but we hurt ourselves and not played well enough in that last period.”

Wales sit at the foot of the Six Nations table but a home win over Italy on Saturday could see them avoid last place.

But even a Wales win against the Azzurri in Cardiff next weekend might not be enough to avoid finishing rock bottom.

Wales have not finished bottom of the championship since losing all five games in 2003.

“It is a massive game for us, but you can’t hide away from it,” Gatland said.

“There will be a lot of external pressure and we understand that. It is about stepping up and making sure we learn from the things we have been doing.

Gatland seemed to be taking Wales in the right direction until they crashed out of the World Cup to Argentina back in the autumn.

They have won only two matches out of their last 15 in the Six Nations, making Gatland part of an unwanted trinity of troubled Kiwis.

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Fellow New Zealanders Graham Henry and Steve Hansen both managed just two wins out of 15 tournaments in their worst stretches in charge of Wales.

Since Gatland returned to take charge of Wales for a second spell 15 months ago, the only team he has beaten in the Six Nations in nine games is Italy.

That’s a sequence mirrored at U20 level for Wales and should be a matter of huge concern to those who run the game.

Since returning to coach Wales 15 months ago, Gatland has won six out of 17 matches – four of which came in the World Cup pool stages.

Gatland added: “There were lots of parts of that game that were reasonably good today. We were in front but unfortunately, we probably capitulated a little bit in the last 15 minutes.”

Rio Dyer, Tomos Williams and Joe Roberts scored tries to give Wales a 24-20 lead at the start of the second half.

But Wales eventually wilted and shipped a record points total to France in Cardiff, with Gatland saying: “There were lots of parts of that game that were reasonably good.

“We were pretty happy with the first half. We targeted to play through phases and when we got over five or six phases, we were creating space and holes, and causing them problems.

“But we didn’t help ourselves with some easy turnovers and errors that we made that allowed them to wrestle back some momentum in the game.
“We were in front, we did look dangerous and created some opportunities and space.

“We’ve got to keep doing that and make sure we manage the game a little bit better in terms of those big moments.

“Unfortunately, we probably capitulated a little bit in the last 15 minutes.”

Wales were behind by three points at half time and raced out of the blocks for centre Roberts to score a try to regain the lead.

But that was the last time Wales scored as a ruthless French side took successive scrums five metres from the Welsh try line.

The relentless pressure broke the home team and both Georges-Henri Colombe and Sebastien Taofifenua went over for tries.

A final twist of the knife saw Maxime Lucu score to take the score to a 21-point winning margin.

France conclude their Six Nations campaign against England in Lyon on Saturday and skipper Gregory Alldritt believes Les Bleus are in fine fettle heading into that contest.

Alldritt said: “For us it’s always a big game against England. We know that our big always expect a big crunch.

“We are going to a big recovery at the start of the week because it is a short week and then we are going to attack this game.

“England are showing some really good rugby at the moment, really tough defence as well, so it’s going to be a big challenge for the forwards.

“We hope to finish with a big performance and a win.”

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