World Cup warm-up: Wales v England
Venue: Principality Stadium, Cardiff Date: Saturday, 17 August Kick-off: 14:15 BST

It was good while it lasted.

For just over 24 hours, Wales were ranked unofficially the best side in the world following ’s 47-26 victory over New Zealand in the Championship on Saturday.

But ’s men failed to make it an official crowning after losing 33-19 to England at Twickenham in Sunday’s World Cup warm-up game.

This means the All Blacks stay top of the official World rankings when they are published on Monday and continue their 10-year dominance.

Former England scrum-half Matt Dawson said he felt that number one tag had weighed on Wales at Twickenham.

Wales certainly demonstrated they still have some work to do to be considered the world’s best side as they produced a disjointed performance.

Wales captain Alun Wyn Jones and team-mates look dejected after defeat by England

Gatland insists, though, that being number one only matters after the World Cup final on 2 November in Japan.

“I think some people mentioned it [being ranked number one] yesterday,” said Gatland.

“It’s a nice accolade but the biggest prize is a couple of months away in Japan. Whoever wins the World Cup is the number one in the world. Everyone’s writing off the All Blacks, but you do at your peril.”

Fully loaded

The first of four pre-season matches produced an injury concern, with fly-half Gareth Anscombe limping off in the first half.

Cue cries from people asking why Wales were playing so many warm-up games before the World Cup.

There will be no let up, with Gatland saying he intends to name a “fully loaded” side for the return fixture against England in Cardiff next Saturday.

That will not please people who want Wales’ top stars safeguarded.

They had already lost British and Irish Lions back-rower Taulupe Faletau (collarbone) to a training ground accident while scrum-half Tomos will also have a scan on a shoulder problem.

Wales have a bit more time to name their squad – they unveil their 31-man party at the beginning of September while England name theirs on 12 August.

“I wouldn’t want to be naming my squad on Monday, I can tell you that,” said Gatland.

Wales players after defeat against England

“We’ve got a few more games together and a few more weeks of training.”

England coach had his own agenda after the game, suggesting Wales could have had two players sent off during the match for high tackles.

Jones refused to identify which incidents and perpetrators he was referring to, his outburst coming after the controversial red card issued to New Zealand second-row Scott Barrett in the defeat by on Saturday.

Controversies aside, England ended Wales’ 14-match unbeaten run, stretching over 18 months, with a powerful performance.

This was despite Wales having the favourites tag after being at full strength against a second-string English side.

Gatland was disappointed with the defeat but acknowledged that in the long run it is what happens in Japan that matters. After all, no importance will be placed on the score of a pre-season warm-up game in August. Even it is England v Wales.

“It’s disappointing, but it’s not something that we’ll dwell on,” said Gatland.

“It’s all about what happens in the middle of September, it’s what we are building for.

“It’s a warm-up game for the World Cup. Any loss is disappointing but it’s not competition phase.

“You have to take that opportunity, look at the negatives but also the positives.

“It’s about what we take out of today, the things to work on and address.”

Bright sparks

There were bright sparks with a brilliant Gareth Davies try that Gareth Edwards would have been proud of, while George North and looked dangerous in attack.

But a slow start cost Gatland’s side dear, as the Wales defence was too passive initially and handling errors were committed when chances were created.

Lineout mistakes and scrum weaknesses were also concerning as England’s tight forwards strangled Wales in the second half.

These are all matters to be addressed before England visit Cardiff.

“We went into the Six Nations with a strategy against England and we implemented that well and were effective,” added Gatland.

Warren Gatland

“Today we played differently and tried to work things out. England did what they’re good at.

“Their scrum was excellent, they drove the lineouts well and they were direct in the way they played.

“We’ve got some things to tidy up on to negate that. They’ve scored a try from our errors.

“We need to be more accurate in attack. We addressed a few things and I thought we were a lot better in the second half.

“We think those things are pretty fixable. To stop them getting momentum at driven line-outs is something we’ll work on along with the scrum.

“Overall it looked like a pre-season game for us and we will definitely be better next week.”

Wales know they will have to be.

There is no need to panic quite yet but a return to winning ways against Wales’ greatest rivals next weekend will help regain that World Cup momentum which can contribute to the overall prize of being ranked number one in the world – when it matters.


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