France 28-9 Wales, Six Nations, Stade de France, March 19
Gatland urges Wales to feed off pressure
March 21, 2011
Wales coach Warren Gatland pictured with his assistant Shaun Edwards who missed the clash in Paris after being disciplined for an alleged bust-up with another member of the backroom staff © Getty Images
Wales coach Warren Gatland has admitted that his side struggle under the weight of their own expectations.
Gatland saw his side's hopes of capturing the Six Nations title disappear in Paris on Saturday night where France shrugged off their recent woes with a 28-9 victory. The result was Wales' heaviest tournament loss since 2006 and saw them slump to a fourth place finish in the Championship.
"We have struggled sometimes with the expectation that we've grown ourselves," said Gatland. "That is something that we need to continue to do to grow as a team. We will hopefully keep putting ourselves under pressure.
"France were favourites but it seemed like we were playing for a close score or a close loss. That's what was really disappointing about our performance. There were too many turnovers and we gave away too many soft penalties as well. There were a couple of key moments but I don't think we turned up.
"We had an opportunity. We were under a lot of pressure but, when expectations are on us to perform, we don't," repeated Gatland. "We have worked hard in this campaign so we freshened the players up by giving them a lighter work-load before the match with France. But, mentally, I didn't believe we were as sharp as we needed to be before this game.
"We seem to thrive on the underdog tag or when we've been heavily criticised. Probably the best thing about the Six Nations is any side on its day is capable of beating the others. So it's probably one of the closest Six Nations that we've had for a long time, which is hugely positive for this tournament going forward.
"Perhaps, in the past, you'd go into the Six Nations and everyone would talk about France and England and say that should be the last game of the tournament. But I think the fact that the other teams have come on so much is really positive for this tournament."
Wales, meanwhile, have attempted to close ranks on an alleged incident involving their defence coach Shaun Edwards. Edwards, head coach of Aviva Premiership club Wasps, did not travel to Paris for Wales' Six Nations finale against France, staying away while Wales painfully unravelled.
It has been reported the 44-year-old was disciplined following an alleged confrontation with a fellow member of Wales' backroom team after last Saturday's victory over Ireland. The incident is said to have happened at the Wales squad's Vale Hotel training base, but there has so far been no official comment from the Welsh Rugby Union or from Edwards.
Neither Gatland nor any of his players were prepared to shed light on the exact reasons for Edwards' Paris absence. "That is an internal matter that I am not prepared to discuss in public," said Gatland, when asked after Wales' reversal if the issue had adversely affected his side's preparations. Fullback Lee Byrne, prop Adam Jones and No.8 Ryan Jones all said the matter had been dealt with "in house."
It is thought that Edwards will be involved in the build-up for Wales' next game. They do not play again until a Millennium Stadium appointment with the Barbarians on June 4, which is followed in August by World Cup warm-up Tests against England, who they will play twice, and Argentina.
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.