Wales coach Gatland finds positives in comprehensive loss to Ireland

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FILE PHOTO: Rugby Union – Six Nations Championship – Wales v Ireland – Principality Stadium, Cardiff, Wales, Britain – February 4, 2023 Wales head coach Warren Gatland before the match Action Images via Reuters/Paul Childs

CARDIFF (Reuters) – Wales coach Warren Gatland insisted there are “a lot of positives” for his side despite their comprehensive home 34-10 defeat to Ireland in the Six Nations opener at the Principality Stadium on Saturday.

Wales were outmuscled up front and outscored by four tries to one as Ireland cantered to victory to spoil Gatland’s homecoming following his re-appointment to the head coach role he last held at the 2019 Rugby World Cup.

“There’s a lot of positives,” Gatland told reporters. “We could have got over the line a couple of times in the first half. It could have been closer and then it’s a different game. It could have been an interesting last 20 minutes had we taken some chances.

“I thought the second half was a huge improvement. We spoke about putting them under pressure with line speed. We created a number of chances but we weren’t clinical enough. The entries into the 22 were the same. That’s a big work-on for us.”

Gatland believes unforced errors also hampered his side, whose only score came via fullback Liam Williams.

“We’ll continue to work on things,” he said. “There were some good moments and we made some nice breaks. We had good momentum in their 22 and we didn’t capitalise. We had a lineout where we overthrew and another where it wasn’t straight.

“International rugby is a massive step up from club rugby. A lot of our players have been in that same position as Ireland where you don’t make too many mistakes.”

Wales travel to Scotland for their second game and do so without experienced lock Alun Wyn Jones.

“Alun Wyn failed a HIA (Head Injury Assessment) and he won’t be available for the next game. (Prop) Tomas Francis came off with a tight calf so we’ll have to look at him.”

Gatland hopes some of his younger players will grab their chance at Murrayfield and had praise for centre Joe Hawkins and wing Rio Dyer.

“There were a lot of nice moments from him (Hawkins). Some nice footwork. He’ll learn from some moments where the ball has been turned over after a break. I thought Rio Dyer showed some stuff too.

“I’m not that disappointed with the performance. There are things we can fix, if we can be clinical and be more disciplined. We’ll work on that.”

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