Six Nations 2014: England were deserved winners, admits Gatland
Six Nations 2014: Wales head coach Warren Gatland says England merited their win against his side at Twickenham
Warren Gatland has conceded that England deserved to win Sunday’s titanic clash after a disappointing afternoon for the reigning champions at Twickenham.
First-half tries from Danny Care and Luther Burrell as well as 19 points from the boot of Owen Farrell were enough to hand England a 29-18 win—their first victory over their biggest rivals after three consecutive defeats—in a dominant display which keeps their own Six Nations title hopes alive and hands them a huge psychological advantage boost ahead of next year’s Rugby World Cup.
It’s been tough on these players in retrospect—a Grand Slam, a championship, a Lions tour—it’s been a long 18 months for those players
“Teams are pretty close in this competition,” Gatland said after the match.
“I think the four top teams are all capable of beating each other on their day if they get their performance right and England got their performance right.
“We just didn’t retain the ball for long enough periods. It was disappointing and we were also on the wrong end of the ledger when it came to scrum penalties and a yellow card.
“England deserved to win the game and they are a good side. The two tries they got one was from a turnover and the other from a tap-penalty, but sometimes that happens in a game.”
Leigh Halfpenny was easily Wales’ best player, kicking six out of six penalties for the 18 points that kept Wales within a reasonable distance of England, but the Toulon-bound full-back was taken off in the closing stages with a dislocated shoulder after a try-saving tackle on Luther Burrell.
“Leigh dislocated a shoulder and has gone for the rest of the season,” Gatland confirmed.
“That will be Leigh’s season over, which is disappointing for him.”
Much had been made about the number of British and Irish Lions stars in the Wales line-up, but to a man they failed to match the exuberance of England’s youth and Gatland admitted that fatigue may have been a factor for his squad.
“It’s been tough on these players in retrospect—a Grand Slam, a championship, a Lions tour—it’s been a long 18 months for those players,” Gatland added.
“But this is professional sport and you’ve got to get yourselves up and unfortunately we weren’t as good as we can be and that’s disappointing.
“I thought we were better in the second half. We spoke about that at half-time – there were a few missed tackles by our tight five and we killed ourselves by the number of turnovers we conceded during the game.”
Wales now return home to the Millennium Stadium for Saturday’s encounter with Scotland with nothing but their unbeaten home record this year on the line and Gatland could ring the changes as well as placing Halfpenny and scrum-half Rhys Webb, who left the action with an ankle injury after 52 minutes.
“There’s an opportunity to do that next week, to look at one or two players,” Gatland said.
“There have been players coming off the bench who have done really well. Maybe they deserve a reward for good displays.
“We have been pretty loyal to players this campaign, but we will reflect on it over the next 48 hours.”