Coach Warren Gatland warns no-holds barred as Wales target record
Wales coach gears his team up for England clash and breaking a record set in 1910
Wales coach Warren Gatland warned there would be no-holds barred when his team target a record 12th consecutive Test victory in two week’s time after a sloppy 26-15 win over Italy in Rome on Saturday.
Gatland’s side went top of the Six Nations table after away wins against France and Italy and next play England in Cardiff on February 23.
But the New Zealander conceded “sometimes you have to win ugly” after Welsh errors allowed the gritty Italians back into the game at the Stadio Olimpico.
“There will definitely be no lack of motivation in trying to beat England and break that record,” said the New Zealander. “We’ve got a chance, we’re at home, the stadium will be full, it’ll be some atmosphere at the Principality Stadium.
“If this group of players achieve that, it’ll be something nobody can take away from them.”
Wales last achieved 11 consecutive victories in 1910. Gatland made 10 changes to the side that beat the French in Paris and led 12-7 at the break thanks to four Dan Biggar penalties.
Josh Adams and Owen Watkin scored a pair of tries after the break but there were too many errors to push for a bonus-point win.
“You’re not always brilliant and we weren’t today. We will be a lot better against England,” said Gatland.
The Italians slumped to a 19th successive defeat in the championship, but emerged with some credit, scoring a try in each half and rattling the world No 3 team.
“A lot of people criticise us but you have to give Italy credit,” said Gatland. “They’re a tough team to break down in Rome. That’s probably the best Italian performance I’ve seen since I’ve been in charge of Wales.”
Gatland tried an experimental Wales side with Jonathan Davies captaining the team for the first time. Gatland emptied his bench in the second half with regular skipper Alun Wyn Jones coming on late and his imposing presence provided a boost.
“I was looking at the bigger picture,” said Gatland, as he prepares for the World Cup in Japan. “We want to have as good a World Cup as we can. That was the plan all along.
“If it was a normal year, on reflection, maybe we wouldn’t have made so many changes. We wanted to give everyone in the 31 an opportunity to be involved in the first two games.
“There’s no regrets, we’ve won two from two matches and now have a couple of weeks to set up nicely for the England match.
“We’ll put this game behind us and the most satisfying thing was coming away with a win.”
Italy followed their loss to Scotland in Murrayfield by extending their losing streak in the competition going back to February 2015. Head coach Conor O’Shea said he took “consolation from the fact we scored the same number of tries as Wales” with Braam Steyn and Edoardo Padovani touching down in either half.
“Any time we do anything good it’s the other team’s fault,” the Irishman replied when asked if he agreed that Wales had not been that good. “I saw an Italian side that fronted up.
“Wales are an incredible team they’re not No1 in the world for nothing. We will never give up and keep working to try and achieve success. I am in this for the long haul of Italian rugby.”
Italy play Ireland in the Stadio Olimpico on February 24.