Six Nations
Rees backs interim coach Howley to deliver
ESPN Staff
January 22, 2013
Wales' Matthew Rees fends off the All Blacks, Wales v New Zealand, Millennium Stadium, Cardiff, Wales, November 27, 2010
Matthew Rees will look to add to his 57 caps during the Six Nations © Getty Images
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Players/Officials: Warren Gatland | Rob Howley | Matthew Rees
Tournaments/Tours: Six Nations
Teams: Wales

Wales' Matthew Rees is adamant the side can cope in the forthcoming Six Nations despite not having Grand Slam-winning coach Warren Gatland at the helm.

Gatland guided Wales to their 2012 Six Nations clean sweep but since their win over France in the last game of the tournament, they have lost seven on the bounce. Interim boss Rob Howley, who will take charge of Wales throughout the Six Nations, presided over their summer tour to Australia due to an injury Gatland had sustained but that tour ended in a 3-0 series defeat.

Following the confirmation of Gatland as British & Irish Lions boss for their tour to Australia later this year, Howley also took charge for two of Wales' autumn series games but both of them ended in losses. But despite Howley's poor record, Rees is adamant that the interim coach has all the right credentials to help his team stop the rot as they look to end their seven-game losing streak against Ireland on February 2.

"Rob has huge respect from the players and the coaches involved. I thought he did a great job in the autumn, although results didn't go our way," Rees said. "Rob is an experienced coach, and there is the strength of Robin [McBryde], Shaun [Edwards] and Neil [Jenkins] with him.

"Rob has got the same strengths as Warren as a coach, and it is great for us to have him. The important thing for us is not to worry too much about the opposition, but making sure we get our own house in order and ensure we prepare well for Ireland. We know how good a team they are. They have got a lot of experienced players in their squad."

And Rees is under no illusions over just how key it is to start their campaign with a win. "With three successive games on the road - France, Italy and Scotland - it underlines how important that first game is at home to Ireland," Rees said. "The most important thing for us is we make sure we learn from what happened in the autumn.

"We've got some new faces involved in the squad, and for us it is a fresh challenge. There is a lot of competition for places, and hopefully that will bring the best out of the players. We know how disappointing we were in the autumn series with four losses, but that is all in the past now and we've got to make sure we learn from that.

"It is a tough Six Nations with three games on the road after the first one at home. We all know the first game up is the most important one in terms of getting momentum and confidence leading into the rest of the campaign."

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