Six Nations: Warren Gatland reserves special praise for Rhys Webb after Italy win
Wales head coach Warren Gatland heaped praise on scrum-half Rhys Webb, who shone in his side’s 29-17 win over Italy on Saturday.
The victory was welcomed by the Welsh, who have endured a poor campaign thus far, and Webb’s comeback to the starting line-up inspired their best performance since the return of Gatland to the helm of the side.
Gatland was delighted with the scrum-half whose brilliance helped his country avoid the wooden spoon.
“I thought he was excellent in that game in the way his decision-making controlled the game,” Gatland said.
“He has not played at this level for a while, so we were always thinking when did we need to make a change in terms of his legs and stuff.
“I thought his contribution was excellent and his decision-making in not trying to force things, not trying too hard. I thought it was a great contribution by him.”
Wales got off to a solid start as winger Rio Dyer scored early on as he ran onto a wicked bouncing ball before Liam Williams scored a solo beauty.
Italy had their chances but were wasteful, and a Taulupe Faletau try in the 50th minute, orchestrated by a break from Webb, was enough to keep the Azzurri out of the game.
Gatland wanted his team to be brave and clinical and was delighted with their efforts.
The coach added: “We spoke before the game about being smart about how we wanted to play, but also being brave and taking those opportunities and moving the ball.
“I thought we deserved to win against an Italy team that is obviously improving. They’re the most athletic Italian side we’ve faced.”
Wales skipper Ken Owens was pleased to see confidence returning to his team after a tricky couple of weeks.
“We will grow from this. We’ve perhaps lacked a bit of confidence over the last few weeks, but I felt we were confident, we were patient and we problem-solved,” Owens said.
“We are trying to build something and we are building. It was a victory for the whole squad.”
Meanwhile, Italy boss Kieran Crowley was annoyed with how his side failed to capitalise on their chances and thought the Azzurri deserved a penalty try.
“We fought our way back into it. We prepared well, we were in a good space, but it just didn’t go our way,” he said.
“Our execution wasn’t good enough and we let ourselves down in that area, which is something we need to look at.
“I couldn’t believe there was no penalty try awarded. It’s very clear there was a tackle made, so there is a tackle line and their 10 tackled Brex. How they couldn’t come to the right decision I don’t know. There was a fair bit of frustration.
“If a penalty try had been given, it was 15-10 and the game changes. Anyway, we move on.”
Crowley’s Italy has been an attacking-focused side throughout this year’s championship, and the coach insists that will not change as it is the way his side will improve.
“I am not going to die wondering,” he explained.
“Italy are where they are because of the way they have played over the last 10 years. If we keep doing the same thing we have always done, we will always be in the same place.
“Wales beat us today by box-kicking. They beat us in the aerial game. I know what sort of game I would rather play.”
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