Monday March 18, 2013
Welsh Lions kings eye Australia scalps
CARDIFF: Rob Howley forecast several Wales players would be returning to Australia with the British and Irish Lions after they retained their Six Nations title with a record-breaking 30-3 win over England.
Saturday’s Millennium Stadium mauling of their arch-rivals saw Wales deny England of both a first Grand Slam since their World Cup-winning year of 2003 and the Six Nations title.
Instead it was Wales, Grand Slam winners last year, who emerged as champions instead as they surpassed their previous record margin of victory against England of 25-0 set way back in 1905.
Among the crowd of more than 74,000 gathered under the Millennium Stadium’s closed retractable roof was Lions boss Warren Gatland, on secondment to the combined side from his “day job” as Wales coach.
Although there’s still a while left before Gatland has to select the squad for a tour that starts in June, the Six Nations, and this match especially, is sure to have a huge bearing on the Kiwi’s thinking.
Up front, Wales dominated England at the scrum, with prop Adam Jones outstanding, while flankers Sam Warburton and Justin Tipuric were commanding at both the breakdown and in the loose.
Two second-half tries from Wales wing Alex Cuthbert ended England’s resistance, with Leigh Halfpenny — on course to be the Lions’ fullback in Australia — kicking four penalties and fly-half Dan Biggar adding a drop-goal, conversion and a penalty.
“As a player you know coming into a Championship in a Lions year how important your performances are going to be,” said Howley, himself a former Wales and Lions scrum-half.
“They are under the microscope throughout the Championship and they performed as you would expect today (Saturday), they turned up.”
Last year, Wales lost a series in Australia 3-0 but all three defeats —27-19, 25-23 and 20-19 — were by narrow margins.
“Having lost that series 3-0, I thought we came away from Australia in relatively good shape and that wasn’t really portrayed in the media,” said Howley who, prior to Saturday’s match had overseen a run of five straight Wales defeats in Cardiff.
“Those lessons you have as coaches and players, you need to learn from and you saw in 80 minutes we’ve learnt a bit in six months,” said Howley— AFP