Warren Gatland relishing Wales’ wooden spoon decider against Italy

By Sports Desk March 10, 2024

Warren Gatland insists Wales will embrace the challenge of a wooden spoon decider against Italy after France inflicted a fourth successive defeat on them in the 2024 Guinness Six Nations.

France powered their way to a five-try 45-24 victory in Cardiff on Sunday as Wales were unable to stem a Les Bleus tide in a one-sided second half.

Wales have not finished bottom of the championship since losing all five games in 2003, but that is the prospect facing Gatland’s young side ahead of Saturday’s showdown against the Azzurri at Principality Stadium.

“It’s massive for us,” said head coach Gatland. “You’ve got to embrace it and not run away from the challenge. I’ve never done that.

“You can’t go into your shell and hide away. There’s going to be a lot of external pressure and expectation, and international rugby is always about that.

“We’ve got to front up, work hard next week and go and give a performance at home.”

Fifth-placed Italy have seven points to Wales’ three in the championship standings after beating Scotland 31-29 in Rome on Saturday.

It was Italy’s first Six Nations victory since winning in Cardiff two years ago, while Wales have lost 11 of their last 12 matches in the competition.

“Physically, they’re in pretty good shape in terms of competing at this level,” said Gatland after Wales had suffered a sixth straight defeat to France.

“It’s going to be a challenge for us and massive for them because they’ll be thinking that they can finish in their best possible position in the Six Nations with a good performance.

“For us, we definitely don’t want to finish at the bottom.”

Rio Dyer, Tomos Williams and Joe Roberts scored tries to give Wales a 24-20 lead at the start of the second half.

But Wales eventually wilted and shipping a record points total to France in Cardiff, with Gatland saying: “There were lots of parts of that game that were reasonably good.

“We were pretty happy with the first half. We targeted to play through phases and when we got over five or six phases, we were creating space and holes, and causing them problems.

“But we didn’t help ourselves with some easy turnovers and errors that we made that allowed them to wrestle back some momentum in the game.

“We were in front, we did look dangerous and created some opportunities and space.

“We’ve got to keep doing that and make sure we manage the game a little bit better in terms of those big moments.

“Unfortunately, we probably capitulated a little bit in the last 15 minutes.”

France conclude their Six Nations campaign against England in Lyon on Saturday and skipper Gregory Alldritt believes Les Bleus are in fine fettle heading into that contest.

Alldritt said: “For us it’s always a big game against England. We know that our big always expect a big crunch.

“We are going to a big recovery at the start of the week because it is a short week and then we are going to attack this game.

“England are showing some really good rugby at the moment, really tough defence as well, so it’s going to be a big challenge for the forwards.

“We hope to finish with a big performance and a win.”

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