Gatland says Australia not ‘monkey on back’ of Welsh
Wales head coach Warren Gatland denied that beating Australia in Cardiff next Saturday would be a “monkey off the back” of his team after 13 successive defeats against the Wallabies, saying it was more important to win next year’s pool game at the Rugby World Cup. But the Kiwi, speaking after yesterday’s victory over Scotland, conceded that a win would be a big boost to his squad as they continue their preparations for Japan 2019.
Gatland declared himself satisfied with yesterday’s result. “It’s a start,” he said. “We were a bit rusty at times but we defended well. It’s nice to get a hit out rather than being thrown in against a southern hemisphere team coming off the Rugby Championship, which is always a tough ask
“There are aspects of our game that need to improve. But there were also lots of positives and lots to build on.”
This match was as much about experimentation as anything else, with a number of players missing for both teams as it fell outside of the international window. Gareth Anscombe, making a rare start at fly-half, was one of those players who was deemed to have had a big opportunity to make a case for continued selection.
Gatland said he was happy with the New Zealand-born player’s performance. “He attacked the line, put some players into some holes,” he said. “The pass for Jonathan [Davies] was good for his try. We were pleased with him.”
Wales next host an Australia side who have won the last 13 clashes between the sides, but who have had an indifferent 2018, finishing third in the Rugby Championship.
With Tonga and South Africa also visiting the Principality Stadium before the end of the month, Gatland said he his team had a great opportunity to lift their confidence.
“It’s not about getting the monkey off the back,” he said of Wales’ record against Australia. “There are games where we’ve been leading going into the final minutes. Unfortunately, we’ve been unlucky at times but it would be nice to win next week and get a result.
“The more important game will be the pool game at the World Cup. If you win your pool then you put yourself on the side of the draw which might be a bit easier. So yes, from a confidence point of view, it would be good.
“They [Australia] have their own pressures from back home and they need performances and results too.”
Scotland coach Gregor Townsend conceded that his team needed to do “better defensively”. Centre Huw Jones had an afternoon to forget, slipping off two tackles which led to tries. But Townsend said his team also needed to be more clinical in attack.
Satisfied: Warren Gatland said there were lots of positives to build on