Gatland demands 'ruthless' 80 minutes
November 13, 2010
Wales have been handicapped by losses of concentration © Getty Images
Warren Gatland knows Wales must show "ruthlessness and concentration" for the full 80 minutes if they are to claim the rare scalp of South Africa at Millennium Stadium on Saturday.
Wales will be looking to improve a dreadful record against Tri-Nations opposition when Victor Matfield's Springboks come visiting, and Wales coach Gatland believes his men must cut out the lapses that have undermined Welsh hopes of knocking over the southern hemisphere opponents he called the "Chelsea, Manchester United and Arsenal" of rugby.
The Springboks have reeled off 11 successive victories against their Cardiff hosts, while it's 23 wins on the bounce for New Zealand and 14 wins out of the last 17 Tests from an Australian perspective.
"In football terms, we are going out every week and having a crack against Chelsea, Manchester United and Arsenal," said Gatland. "We are a mid-table team trying to improve ourselves by playing against the best. It's frustrating for me as a coach because we start well and then there is a drop of tempo, or we start poorly and then pick it up.
"You have to be on the ball for 80 minutes, and we do tend to occasionally switch off. We have to get our act together and maintain ruthlessness and concentration for 80 minutes. We are putting players under pressure at training, replicating the intensity of matches."
The Welsh pack were on top for much of Australia's 25-16 win last week, leaving the spotlight on the side's ability to turn momentum into scoring opportunities. Gatland said he is happy to see a looser style of play if the inevitable mistakes are equalled by moments of inspiration.
"We did lack of bit creativity against Australia," conceded Gatland. "We forced eight turnovers - double their number - but nothing came from them. We have to be more confident. The coaches have been saying to our kickers that we do not want them kicking 20 metres to touch, we want them to have a crack for 50 metres and don't worry if they do not find touch.
"We want them to be expressive and to go out there and play. We were happy with the game-plan against Australia. We knew we would be limited in a couple of areas and we changed things, and now we have to get other aspects right."
Wales captain Matthew Rees said: "The good thing for us is that a lot of our players came away from that Lions tour to South Africa last year with our heads held high. We know them inside out now and what they can bring. It's a massive game, especially with the World Cup just around the corner. We don't want to be going there just to make up the numbers, we want to go there to be a force and be in contention as one of the sides to win the World Cup.
"If you want to be the best you have got to play the best, and we try to play the southern hemisphere teams as often as we can. It is important we get a result on Saturday and important that we get the scalp of one of these Tri Nations teams."
And as for debutant teenage wing George North, a Scarlets colleague of the Wales skipper, he added: "For an 18-year-old, there are not many boys of his stature around. I have been very impressed with his qualities.
"I think he is the strongest player we've got in the Scarlets squad in terms of power output in the gym and lifting weights. It's impressive. George is an 18-year-old and he doesn't fear anyone. I've always been impressed with him. On and off the field, he's a true professional."
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
Italy coach Jacques Brunel spoke to ESPN ahead of his final season as Italy coach and tells of his desire to experiment and evolve
"There's no bull with me, I just tell it straight." Tom Hamilton talks to Warren Gatland in an exclusive interview
With the retirement of Adam Jones, Welsh rugby says goodbye to a great player and one of its biggest personalities too, writes Tom Hamilton
Cards, kicks, slips and scores: It's The Week in Pictures, the finest snaps from the last seven days of rugby