Rees demands Wales shape up
March 3, 2011
Captain Matthew Rees insists enough is enough when it comes to Wales' penalty woes © Getty Images
Matthew Rees believes that Wales are their own worst enemy at the moment and the skipper has demanded an end to their costly indiscipline.
Back-to-back victories over Scotland and Italy have revived Wales' Six Nations challenge following an opening weekend loss at home to Grand Slam-chasing England, but Rees believes his side have to tighten up their game against Ireland on Saturday week if they want to keep their Championship challenge alive.
They have conceded 40 penalties and free-kicks during the tournament - two more than any other team - and also had three players sin-binned, which is only one less than the other five countries put together. Rees accepts it is an issue, with the need for better discipline currently a key topic for debate within the Wales squad.
"The biggest thing for us at the moment is discipline," he admitted. "It has been an issue, especially during the last two games. We are keeping teams in the game, where we should be blowing them away. Poor discipline has killed us. It's heat-of-the-moment stuff, and we've spoken about it this week. It is costing us, and it has got to stop.
"We are getting into good field positions and then giving teams easy 'outs' by conceding a penalty. It is taking our field position away and means we cannot turn pressure into points. We have given some cheap penalties away, and the better teams in the world are going to punish you. We've had to address that. It is frustrating for us, because our biggest challenge at the moment is ourselves.
"Whoever starts at 10 for Ireland against us next week, they are great kickers. Three points here and three points there, you can't afford it, especially at Test match level."
The Millennium Stadium clash will Ireland see Warren Gatland clock up his 36th Test in charge, breaking Alan Davies' record for a Wales coach, while centre Jonathan Davies is likely to be available again following a hamstring injury. Davies missed the Italy match, which meant James Hook being moved from fly-half into midfield alongside Jamie Roberts, but the No.10 shirt will beckon again for Hook if Davies is declared fit.
Gatland could also be tempted to recall teenage wing George North - a star of this season's autumn Tests - who continues his comeback from shoulder trouble when the Scarlets tackle Magners League rivals Leinster in Dublin on Friday night. Right-wing incumbent Morgan Stoddart though, has performed well in all three Six Nations Tests so far, while Leigh Halfpenny has regained full fitness and was an unused replacement in Rome.
"We've won two games on the road. They haven't been the prettiest of wins, but we will take them, and we know there is a lot more to come from us," Rees said. "It is important that against Ireland and France we deliver performances that are virtually error-free and our discipline is spot-on.
"Ireland have got class players right through their team. [Brian] O'Driscoll is a great leader, and they are going to be a tough challenge. But we are in a good frame of mind. We've had two tough games away from home, and we are second in the table. It's up to us now.
"There are a lot of players in the squad playing good rugby. I don't think we've come under any pressure, really, in the three games we've played. It has been down to our errors. If you look back to the England game, it was an error in defence when [Toby] Flood went through and [Chris] Ashton scored between the sticks, and they scored their second try when we were down to 14 men. We know Ireland will be a big threat, and it is important we make sure we cut down on errors and improve our discipline. We've been putting ourselves under a lot of pressure."
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
Bows, bouts and big hits, launches, lineouts and late tries. Here's the finest snaps from the last seven days: it's Week in Pictures time
The Scotland coach enters his first Six Nations with at least one familiar face to look to for inspiration - Joe Schmidt. He chats to Tom Hamilton
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