Warren Gatland convinced Wales will take step forward with experience

By Sports Desk February 25, 2024

Warren Gatland is convinced Wales are on course to become “an excellent team” despite a third successive defeat in another gloomy Guinness Six Nations campaign.

Gatland’s inexperienced side are battling to avoid the ignominy of the wooden spoon following Saturday’s 31-7 loss to title favourites Ireland.

Defeat in Dublin followed narrow losses to Scotland and England in this year’s tournament and was a 10th in 11 championship matches overall.

New Zealander Gatland, whose team host France in round four before Italy visit Cardiff on the final weekend, remains upbeat and offered an example from his playing days to demonstrate how fortunes can improve.

“I look back on my own career as a player, playing for Waikato against Auckland after the 1987 World Cup,” he said.

“They had a number of All Blacks and they probably put 40 points on us.

“We were starting to become a good team and coming off that experience, I wanted to play them next week.

“Because that’s what I learned from as a player and hopefully these guys are getting the same experience from that.

“A couple of years later, we ended up turning the tables on them.

“I have no doubt where we’re going, this team is going to be an excellent team going forward, when we get some more experience.”

Wales registered a third scoreless half in as many games as tries from Dan Sheehan and James Lowe helped the Grand Slam-chasing hosts lead 17-0 at the break.

A positive response brought a penalty try early in the second period but the visitors failed to capitalise on further chances in Ireland’s 22 before scores from Ciaran Frawley and Tadhg Beirne killed off the contest.

More than a third of Wales’ match-day 23 arrived at the Aviva Stadium with cap totals in single figures, and Gatland is keen to keep things in perspective.

“I think that we’ve said all along that it’s about the development of this team and learning,” said the 60-year-old, who returned for a second spell in charge ahead of last year’s Six Nations.

“They’ve played against one of the best teams in the world.

“Eight or nine of their team are over 30 and have been around for a while.

“It’s just making sure we keep working hard, doing what we’re doing and looking forward to the next game.

“It’s all about talking to players individually about how they found it out there, what did they learn from it, how they’ll be better next time as an individual.”

Wales captain Dafydd Jenkins hopes to help his country reach the same level as reigning champions Ireland.

“That’s where we want to be as a team,” said the 21-year-old Exeter lock, who is 13 years younger than Irish skipper Peter O’Mahony.

“Personally, I’ve seen where I want to get to as a player. I’m sure the rest of the team has as well.

“We’re going to push and work hard every day to make sure we get to that level.”

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