Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Wales boss Gatland warns Martyn Williams and Ryan Jones

Coach Warren Gatland says that veteran Wales flanker Martyn Williams and skipper Ryan Jones must improve their displays against Ireland on Saturday.

Wales rescued an incredible last-gasp 31-24 win against Scotland in their last championship game in Cardiff.

But Williams, Jones and Andy Powell - now dropped for disciplinary reasons - were outshone by Scotland's back-row and must up their game against Ireland.

"Martyn's missed a few tackles and he's been the first to put his hand up and needs to rectify his performance and get it right and he normally responds exceptionally well to that.

"I think what's pleased me about Martyn in the last week or so is he's recognised that as a loose-forward trio we probably didn't do so well against Ireland.

"So it's a sign of his experienced leadership in the squad, and for Ryan I think he's developed well into a captain.

"He's showing really good signs in terms of the way he's leading this team. He doesn't speak for the sake of speaking and he's starting to let his rugby do the talking.

"But he knows himself after his performance against Scotland he needs to go up a notch against Ireland."

Jonathan Thomas switches from lock to back-row to fill the gap vacated by Powell's banishment from the squad after being charged with drink-driving following an incident with a golf buggy on the morning after the win against Scotland.

Thomas' move and Alun Wyn Jones' absence following elbow surgery gives Deiniol Jones and Bradley Williams the chance to impress in the second-row.

Jones' inclusion was the major talking point when Gatland announced the team on Monday, with Luke Charteris only getting a place on the bench despite his man-of-the-match show for the Dragons at Ulster.

Gatland also admits that picking Mike Phillips on the bench - despite the British and Irish Lions star playing just 40 minutes of rugby in four months - is a gamble.

Phillips has been selected ahead of Dwayne Peel - who has missed only a month of action recently with a groin strain - as the back-up to Richie Rees of the Blues.

Gatland cited the precedents of Ireland hooker Jerry Flannery recently returning to Test action after injury and Scotland having Mike Blair on the bench against Wales following a lengthy lay-off.

That group of scrum-halves includes Gareth Cooper, who started Wales' opening loss of the championship away to England and the win over Scotland but now finds himself out of the match-day squad.

Gatland admits he was wrong to pick Cooper to start against Scotland, with Rees having made a strong case for the starting nine shirt with his performances off the bench.

"I know we'd made a call on Gareth Cooper in the first two games and we were criticised for that and probably fair enough criticism in the second game, because we did make that replacement at half-time," Gatland added.

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