Gatland and Roberts relishing England clash
February 8, 2009
Wales boss Warren Gatland has predicted a bruising match-up with England next weekend ©
Wales boss Warren Gatland has predicted a bruising clash with England at the Millennium Stadium next weekend after his side secured a 26-13 win over Scotland at Murrayfield.
Wales banished memories of their turgid 21-9 loss to the Scots in Edinburgh in 2007 with tries from Tom Shanklin, Alun-Wyn Jones, Leigh Halfpenny and Shane Williams.
"This has been a tough place for Wales to come over the years, so I have to be happy with the result," Gatland told AFP. "We have put ourselves in a good position, but we are bearing in mind that there are four games to go - and only a six-day gap before facing England. That will be very physically demanding for the guys."
Gatland's side put in a huge forward effort that set a platform for their exciting backs, a facet of the game that eluded their opponents.
"I thought we scrummaged really well," said Gatland. "I know with (Nathan) Hines and (Euan) Murray out, they were huge losses to the Scottish tight five but it was one aspect of our game that was very, very pleasing. We're pretty happy with a lot of things in attack; a few things to work on in defence. But for us to start the campaign off like that and get a win away from home, we're very, very pleased with that."
Wales were backed by a chorus of voices that had made the long trip to Edinburgh despite the game being on a Sunday, and Gatland will be hoping for an electric atmoshphere when England visit next weekend.
"It just gave us a huge boost on the bus coming here seeing how many Welsh supporters were here," he said. "There's a few of them singing before the game, the national anthem, and I think if they're going to show that much passion and loyalty then they deserve to get paid back and I thought the boys did that well today."
Gatland was also pleased with the business-like manner that his side accepted the loss of their skipper Ryan Jones and centre Gavin Henson in the build-up to the game. "I think it's the maturity that's developing in the side," he said. "We get a couple of setbacks or disappointments and you just handle it. That's what good sides do."
Wales' coaching staff will now be sweating on the fitness of star wing Williams ahead of next weekend's game after he left the field with his ankle encased in ice.
"I went over on my ankle tackling Jason White," said Williams. "I don't know how bad it's going to be. I've iced it up and compressed it. Its a short turnaround this week and I just hope I can come back and be in the selection for next week. Hopefully, it's not as bad as I first thought. I am more determined than ever to play against England. I'll be gutted if I have to miss it."
Man of the Match Jamie Roberts roared "bring on England" after inspiring Wales to victory. The Cardiff Blues centre was prominent as Wales surged into a 26-6 lead before letting Scotland back into the match in the last 10 minutes.
Roberts told BBC1, "It was an absolutely fantastic performance first half - they had us on the edge of our seats at the end but fair play to Scotland they made us work hard. I'm just looking forward to next week now - bring on England."
With Scotland missing Euan Murray and Nathan Hines due to injury they were comprehensively out-muscled up front by a high-energy Wales pack. Scottish coach Frank Hadden, criticised for his selection in certain quarters, will have to remedy their frailties before they travel to take on France at the Stade de France next weekend.
"That's one of the things that we're going to have to look at very closely during the course of the week," said Hadden. "There could be a number of reasons for that. It could be technical problems. But, for me, it just seemed as if we were too passive. I haven't seen us look so passive or tentative. The last time I saw that was South Africa 2006.
"Maybe they're thinking too hard about the shape instead of just getting wired in. It's early days in this competition. You can never be sure how you're going to start. One thing I do know is that we'll definitely get better."
With France looking impressive against Ireland despite their defeat on Saturday, Hadden's men will have to be wary of allowing them a similar amount of space to that they afforded Wales.
"We knew we were playing the best side in the northern hemisphere today but we're bitterly disappointed that we allowed them to show it so easily," he said. "I felt we were outmuscled, especially in the first half an hour. But you have to give them credit for taking advantage of the extra man when Geoff Cross was sinbinned. But for me, the killer blow was just after half-time. We were always chasing after that.
"It was inevitable we were going to come strong at some stage and, sadly, like too often before, it was too late before we got going."
Scotland have injury concerns over captain Mike Blair, Jim Hamilton, Phil Godman, Jason White, Chris Cusiter, Scott Gray and Graeme Morrison, while Geoff Cross and Simon Webster face cognitive tests in order to determine their fitness for the trip to Paris.