WARREN Gatland says Wales are creating problems for themselves by “not being accurate in key critical moments”.
“That’s what Test match rugby is about, staying in the arm wrestle and staying in the fight, and being accurate,” said the head coach after Saturday’s 20-10 defeat to England in Cardiff.
“We’ve spoken about being hard on ourselves, in areas we need to improve on. I thought there were a number of improvements in that performance, but there is still a lot of work for us to do.”
On the new-look back line, he said: “I thought Joe Hawkins went well and Mason Grady did well for his first cap. We defended well at times, we probably need to create a bit more width on attack and that is something we need to work on.
“It’s a case of us trying to control the things in critical moments, whether that’s nailing a lineout or stopping a ball going to ground from a pass.
“We have a little bit of contact stuff we can tidy up in the 22 and just creating a bit more on attack. We do a lot of work in terms of receiving kicks and we put a couple down or knocked them on, which allowed them to shift the momentum.
“There are a lot of things we were happy with, and we have improved.
“Our Achilles heel at the moment is not being accurate and clinical in the opposition 22. And we are exposing the ball and allowing the opposition to get on it.
“We didn’t get too many penalties from breakdowns and there were a couple against us. We just need to be a little bit more accurate and patient in that area and make sure we focus on securing the ball.”
Looking ahead to Rome, where Wales will start as underdogs for the first time ever, Gatland added: “We’ve looked at a few players. It is all very well saying that, but you also need a little bit of continuity in selection.
“We wanted to find out a bit about players within the squad, and we kind of feel having done that in games and training, we are now thinking about cohesion going forward, particularly for the Italy game which becomes pretty important.
“The last thing you want to do is get the Wooden Spoon. That’s got to be our focus from that. Part of this Six Nations is about us thinking about the next six or seven months. We’ve got older players still holding their hands up and some younger players who need some time.
“We’ve not got that group in the middle, who have 30 or 40 caps. We’ve got to marry the two together and start thinking about that going forward. Some of those youngsters need to be given more time together. You can’t coach experience.”
Meanwhile, local grassroots rugby this Saturday (March 4) sees Monmouth RFC travel to Risca while Chepstow host Hafodyrynys.