Gatland highlights second half improvement after Wales were put to the sword by Ireland
Warren Gatland’s first game back as Wales coach turned into a sobering lesson, as Ireland got off to a fast start in this year’s Six Nations.
Ireland eased to a 34-10 victory in Cardiff – their first Six Nations win on Welsh soil since 2013 – with tries from Caelan Doris, James Ryan, James Lowe and Josh van der Flier securing a bonus-point win for the world’s number-one ranked team.
It came after scrum-half Jamison Gibson-Park had been ruled out with a hamstring injury just a few hours before kick-off, with the veteran Conor Murray drafted in to win his 101st cap.
Ireland were almost out of sight at half-time having scored three tries and opened up a commanding 27-3 lead.
Wales were vastly improved in the second period with Liam Williams crossing, but the full-back’s yellow card for a high tackle on Johnny Sexton ended any hopes of a comeback.
Gatland, who oversaw a golden era for Wales between 2008 and 2019, said: “I think the slow start was brought on ourselves by the fact that we conceded some penalties which gave them the momentum to get into our 22”.
“We didn’t have a good enough exit to start the game and we were 14 points down and under the pump.
“But I thought the second half was a huge improvement. At the end of the game I said in my head that I actually wasn’t that disappointed with our performance.
“I think there’s a huge amount of upside in us and in the past we’ve been able to work hard and fix things.”
Asked if he had the time to do so before travelling to Murrayfield, Gatland said: “I think so. We’ll continue to work on that and ask the players to have a look at themselves and be pretty hard.
“There were definitely some good moments. We made some nice breaks and had some really good momentum in the 22, but we just didn’t come away with those points.”
Gatland also confirmed Wales will be without record caps holder Alun Wyn Jones in Scotland next week after the second-row forward failed a head injury assessment.
Gatland’s opposite number Andy said: “I’m delighted to get off to a good start because as we all know this is a really difficult place to start the campaign. Our history says exactly that.
“But our preparation has been top drawer and we got what we deserved.
“At the same time there’s plenty to do, to fix and get better. It’s not a bad place to be.”
Ireland welcome defending champions France to Dublin in their second championship fixture next Saturday.
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