Wales coach Warren Gatland said his team had become “battle-hardened” thanks to facing the big three from the southern hemisphere on a regular basis. Wales have played South Africa twice, New Zealand three times and Australia once in the last year. They beat Ireland 19-13 at the Millennium Stadium on Saturday, and Gatland praised their gutsy defence as they managed to prevent Ireland from scoring a last minute try.
“We were never as bad as people were making out,” said Gatland. “We’ve had a poor run of results but we have been facing the best teams in the world. When I became Wales coach I wanted to play New Zealand, South Africa and Australia as often as possible, because that’s the only way you’re going to get better.
“Against Scotland we showed more composure and maturity, and we dug deep today – previously we might have conceded that try (at the end of the match).”
Defence coach Shaun Edwards added: “We probably couldn’t have held on if we hadn’t played teams like South Africa, New Zealand and Australia – we probably would have conceded that try. We have become battle-hardened.”
Gatland and captain Matthew Rees were also pleased with how well Wales managed to match Ireland’s physicality, something that his team have been working on in recent years.
“We’ve got a good pack of forwards who have come a long way,” said Rees. “Physically when we’ve played South Africa we’ve matched them or even come out on top.
“We were disappointed with our first half today but we played well in the second half. This is a huge win for us, and we’re now looking forward to France next week.”