Gatland: Lack of territory and possession caught Wales in second half against Ireland

Gatland: Lack of territory and possession caught Wales in second half against Ireland
Warren Gatland greets Joe Schmidt ahead of the game today. Picture: INPHO/Dan Sheridan

Wales boss Warren Gatland regretted his side’s inability to stop Ireland’s second-half collision dominance as the Grand Slam champions were beaten in Dublin in the final game before the World Cup today.

Ireland came from 10-7 down at half-time in the Aviva Stadium to win 19-10 thanks to early second-half tries from Tadhg Furlong and James Ryan as Joe Schmidt’s side went back to basics and went through phases with great success.

Wales had led at the interval following a tight opening period in which Rob Kearney had opened the scoring with a 21st-minute try, converted by Johnny Sexton on his seasonal debut. A Leigh Halfpenny penalty and Hadleigh Parkes try on the half-hour, converted by Dan Biggar, gave Gatland’s side the edge at the break, though they had lost starting fly-half Rhys Patchell to failed Head Injury Assessment on 23 minutes.

“I was really pleased with the first half,” Gatland said. “I thought we were really positive in the way that we played. We spoke at half-time about keeping our discipline so a 10-1 penalty count in the second half, you’re going to struggle with that, which was disappointing.

“And Ireland went back to what they are traditionally good at, you know, I think 85% of that second half was just off nine, off nine, off nine and then Bundee Aki was effective in gainline stuff.

“In the past when we’ve been successful against Ireland, it’s making sure that when they play that way you’ve got to be a bit more collision-dominant in that area and your discipline needs to be good as well and they were two areas of the game that were a bit disappointing for us.

“I was pleased with our scrum and lineout, they were good, and was pleased with how positive we were, particularly in that first half but we just didn’t have enough territory and possession in that second half.”

Wales, like Ireland, leave for Japan on Wednesday, ahead of their first Pool D game against Georgia on September 23. Ireland open their account a day earlier against Scotland.

Gatland was optimistic that Patchell would be on the plane with the rest of the squad, despite having spent periods of last season sidelined by concussions.

"It was just an HIA. He has got to be assessed over the next few days,” the Wales head coach said of his fly-half. "He seems okay in the changing room now. He will be fine (for a place on the plane).”

Gatland has selected only two fly-halves, Biggar and Patchell, in his 31-man World Cup squad having already lost the services of Gareth Anscombe due to an injury sustained last month but he was mindful of Patchell’s recent head-injury issues.

"We will talk to the medics about that and see how he fares over the next couple of days. We are hoping he gets some positive luck because he deserves it.

"Where he has got that knock he has probably gone a bit low. The ironic thing about World Rugby is everyone is talking about the head and keeping the tackles down but most of the concussions are from the tackler going low and making contact with hips and knees.

"That is one aspect we need to continue to work on the defensive player as well."

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