WALES coach Warren Gatland admits it took a half-time dressing down to inspire his team to their biggest ever World Cup victory yesterday against Pool D whipping boys Namibia.
Gatland’s men looked on course for a huge score after claiming three tries inside the first 17 minutes – centre Scott Williams, wing Aled Brew and No8 Toby Faletau all going over.
They then eased off, however – until Gatland tore a strip off them at the break, and they responded by running in a dozen tries and etching several new entries in the record books.
Williams, 20, completed a hat-trick on his full debut, teenager George North became the tournament’s youngest ever try scorer and fly-half Stephen Jones broke the 900-point mark on his record 101st appearance.
“We started off with 22 points in the first 15 minutes [sic], I think, and then the guys felt the game was all over, went to sleep and stopped being aggressive,” said Gatland.
“They got a bit of a rollicking at half-time and came out in the second half and did the job. The impact off the bench was really good and overall, with the number of changes we made for the game – 11 – I’m really pleased.” The bonus-point triumph lifted Wales ahead of Samoa to second in the pool and put them on course for the quarter-finals, where they look likely to face Six Nations rivals Ireland.
Replacement winger North claimed a second try while there were also scores for prop Gethin Jenkins, centre Jonathan Davies, full-back Lee Byrne, replacement scrum-half Lloyd Williams and second-row Alun Wyn-Jones.
No10 Jones became the first Wales player to exceed a century of Test caps and celebrated the occasion by kicking 15 points to breach the 900 mark, although his day was tainted when his pass was intercepted and Heinz Koll darted 40 metres to touch down.
Captain Sam Warburton said: “Namibia made it very tough for us, particularly in the contact area which was a bit of a disappointment from our point of view. But credit to the boys, we got 12 tries and the all-important bonus point.”
Gatland refused to get carried away, insisting there was still work to be done before Fiji on Sunday. He added: “The disappointing thing of the night was the scrums were pretty messy, there were a lot of penalties, but we’ll have a look at the tape and sit down over the next couple of days and look at the side for Fiji.”
THE BREAKDOWN | WORLD CUP BRIEFS
IRELAND FIGHTING FIT
IRELAND trio Sean O’Brien (bruised arm), Rob Kearney (jarred knee) and Keith Earls (dead leg) are all expected to recover from the injuries they picked up in last weekend’s win over Russia in time for Sunday’s pivotal Pool C clash against Italy. Meanwhile, Paul O’Connell, Gordon D’Arcy and Tommy Bowe, who all missed the 62-12 win over Russia, all trained with the team today for the first time in over a week.
LOBBE BLOW FOR PUMAS
ARGENTINA’S World Cup hopes have been rocked by the news that vice-captain Juan Fernandez Lobbe (inset) has been ruled out of the rest of the tournament after suffering a knee ligament injury during Sunday’s 13-12 win over Scotland.
BOKS SET FOR BATTLE
SOUTH AFRICA are readying themselves for a Samoan physical onslaught ahead of Friday’s Pool D clash. The Pacific Islanders are in with an outside chance of reaching the last eight and Springbok hooker Bismarck du Plessis believes Samoa possess one of the most effective scrums in the tournament. “I think their scrums are superb and it was one of their main weapons against Fiji,” he said. Talismanic lock Victor Matfield, meanwhile, is likely to feature after damaging his hamstring against Wales a fortnight ago.
POCOCK BOOST FOR AUSSIES
AUSTRALIA’S No7 David Pocock has declared himself fit for Saturday’s final Pool C clash against Russia. The 23-year-old missed the surprise defeat against Ireland two weeks ago with a back injury. “I am available for full training and selection this week, which is pretty exciting,” he said. “I did a running session yesterday morning and it was great to be doing a bit of fitness and moving freer. I was getting cold though – my hands were freezing.”