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Rugby's north-south divide is closing - Gatland

By Jack Davies
Wales coach Warren Gatland

The gulf in quality between northern and southern hemisphere rugby is closing, according to Wales coach Warren Gatland.

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Wales were beaten 33-18 by New Zealand in Cardiff on Saturday to extend a 64-year winless run in the fixture but more than held their own for long spells and trailed by just one point at half-time.

The match followed the All Blacks‘ close-run 22-17 win against Scotland last weekend, with Steve Hansen’s team unable to dominate the sides on this tour as they have done in the past.

“I think gone are the days, as we saw last weekend, that the All Blacks could comfortably put out a second-string side against Scotland or Wales and still win the game,” said Gatland.

“There’s still a gap but we’d like to think that the gap is closing a little bit.

“We’ve got a big game next week against South Africa. We’ve beaten them on the last two occasions we’ve played them.

“If we can beat them three in a row, it’ll be the first time Wales have beaten South Africa three in a row.

“So we need to learn from the first three weeks we’ve been together and continue to improve and hopefully come away with a good result next week.”

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New Zealand wingers Waisake Naholo and Rieko Ioane score two tries apiece as the visitors took their chances at the Principality Stadium, with Anton Lienert-Brown scoring the other.

“I said yesterday that the big challenge for us was that we’d have a good chance of winning if we could contain their wingers – the size, pace and power of their wingers,” continued Gatland.

“And unfortunately that was probably the difference between the two sides. They scored four tries between them.

“But, saying that, Steff [Evans] and Hallam [Amos] will have learned a lot from the experience of playing against those guys.

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“So a lot of things that we did, particularly in the first half… those players will get better from that experience and learn to be a little bit more clinical.”

Gatland even tried to claim Ioane as Welsh, quipping: “I think his grandmother was Welsh, wasn’t she? He’s not bad is he?”

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William 1 hours ago
All Blacks vs England takeaways: Richie Who? Time for Cortez

Correct analysis of Perofeta’s bungling of the try opportunity Ben. Never ‘fixed’ Steward as he came across in defence and passed too early. Steward didn’t have to break his stride and simply moved on to pressure Telea. Never scanned the easier option of passing to the two supporting players on the inside. Beauden Barrett showed how it is done when he put Telea in for his try. Another point from the game is that the rush defence is hard to maintain as the number of phases increases. From scrums the defensive line only contains backs who all have roughly the same pace. Once forwards are involved, the defence has players with variable speeds often leading to a jagged line. It also tends to lose pace overall giving the attack more time and space. Beauden Barrett’s break to set up Telea’s try came because Baxter went in to tackle McKenzie and Steward went out to cover Telea. Barrett has a massive hole to run through, then commits Steward by passing as late as possible and Telea scores untouched. Another comment I would make is that Ben Earl is a good player and generally an excellent defender but he made three significant misses in the series, two of which led to All Black tries. Got stepped by Perofeta in Dunedin for Savea’s try, missed McKenzie in Auckland leading to what should have been a certain try being set up by Perofeta and was one of the tacklers who couldn’t stop Savea in the leadup to Telea’s first try. Perhaps he should contact Owen Farrell to pick up a few tips from ‘tackle school’.

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