Six Nations

Gatland wary of Irish dogfight

2015-03-01 11:30
Warren Gatland (Gallo Images)

Paris - Warren Gatland believes Wales must avoid getting dragged into a dogfight if they are to beat Ireland in the Six Nations in two weeks.

Wales are back in the Six Nations title running after successive away wins over Scotland and France following their opening 21-16 defeat at home to England.

With the English travelling to fellow unbeaten outfit Ireland on Sunday, Gatland believes Wales can still finish top of the pile come the end of the tournament.

But in order to do so, the New Zealander says they cannot afford to get dragged into a turgid forwards battle against Ireland at the Millennium Stadium on March 14.

"The challenge is they're very clinical at what they do and don't make a lot of mistakes," said Gatland following Saturday's 20-13 victory over France.

"They're not playing a huge amount of rugby, their set piece is good, they drill their line-outs well, they kick to the corners well, their kicking in the air is good.

"We've got to make sure we cope with that. We got dragged into that sort of game with England, particularly in the second half. They just drove everything and slowed the game down and unfortunately we didn't handle that and stopped playing rugby ourselves.

"We were much better against Scotland and today (Saturday) and we tried to move the ball. Particularly in that first 15 minutes, we played a lot of rugby. But it's tough to break down sides at the beginning when everyone's so fresh and there's not a lot of space.

"The message for us is to try to match or beat Ireland physically up front and try to go and impose ourselves and play rugby. If we're able to do that, then we'll come away with the victory."

Wales had the edge in terms of possession and territory against the French, although the hosts at the Stade de France in Paris had the better chances.

Leigh Halfpenny kept the score ticking over with five penalties while an opportunistic break from scrum-half Rhys Webb, followed by a sublime offload from Dan Lydiate, gave Dan Biggar the chance to score in the corner.

France had a try chalked off for a forward pass and twice fluffed their lines when fly-half Camille Lopez tried to pick out a teammate with a crossfield kick inside the Welsh 22.

When Brice Dulin finally crossed the whitewash late on -- for France's first try against the Welsh since 2011 -- Wales had edged out to an 11-point lead and Les Bleus simply could not close the gap.

It was Wales's fourth straight victory over France but the first in Paris for captain Sam Warburton, who missed the 2013 victory due to injury.

"It was a very, very tough game. It's always tough against France but it's nice for me because it's my first win in Paris," he said.

For France coach Philippe Saint-Andre it was a question of missed chances for his side.

Although since he took over the France reins following the 2011 World Cup, he has failed to beat Wales, Ireland, South Africa or New Zealand, with just one win over England and two each against Australia and Argentina to buck the trend of dire results against the top sides.

"I'm not going to say we're a great team, even though in November there were good things," he said.

"It's the same thing as when we lost to Argentina (in November) even though we could have won.

"At the beginning of the Six Nations we dominated Scotland but at the end the score was very close.

"We dominated the last half hour against Ireland but we missed five points with the boot and we were indisciplined, and it was the same (against Wales)."

While his critics don't, Saint-Andre says he sees progress from his side.

"Two years ago we were dominated at home by Wales but (Saturday) they had one chance to score a try and scored.

"Their kicker had five from six. They were efficient and we weren't."

Read more on:    wales  |  six nations  |  warren gatland  |  rugby

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