Wales face up to shortcomings
March 19, 2011
Wales' Mike Phillips struggles to tackle France's Thierry Dusautoir © Getty Images
Warren Gatland could not hide his disappointment after Wales slipped to a 28-9 loss against France on Saturday, ending their Six Nations on a low.
Gatland's side arrived at the Stade de France with an outside chance of capitalising on England's earlier Grand Slam misery, but they suffered a meltdown of their own to slump from second to fourth in this season's final standings.
"Very disappointing performance by us," he said. "We conceded too many turnovers in the opposition half and some soft penalties as well at a couple of key moments. Unfortunately for us, I don't think we turned up tonight."
Gatland questioned his side's ability to handle the weight of expectation on them following England's defeat in Ireland.
"We had an opportunity tonight," he said. "Sometimes as a team we love the underdog tag, we love when we're under a bit of pressure, but when the expectation is that we go out there and perform, we've struggled with those expectations. For me, that's the disappointing thing."
Gatland ruled out tiredness at the end of a long campaign as the root cause for the performance, although he did reveal that they had eased off physically this week. "From our point of view, we didn't feel as mentally sharp as we needed to be for tonight's match," he said.
Wales' cause was not helped by the early departure of flanker Sam Warburton, who hobbled of after 16 minutes with a knee injury. The Cardiff Blues openside will undergo a scan on Saturday night.
"Sam being injured was a big loss for us," he said. "I think he's been one of the players of the tournament. Hopefully, the injury's not too serious and it doesn't keep him out for too long."
France coach Marc Lieveremont, who accused his players of cowardice last weekend after their defeat to Italy, praised his team for their reaction to a tough week.
"What is important here was the reaction of the players," he said. "It was a manly reaction. It's not about what was said outside the group but what was said within the group and this what went right on the field today.
"I feel happy. I also feel a bit of relief. I'm really impatient to leave this room to go and enjoy a beer."
Captain Thierry Dusautoir was delighted to have helped make amends for the Italy debacle.
"I'm happy for the team, and also happy for the management, especially after this hard week," the flanker said. "We deserved that tough week after the result in Italy. I'm happy with the way we bounced back."
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