belfasttelegraph

Tuesday 2 September 2014

Lydiate confident for Six Nations

Dan Lydiate believes Wales are well-placed to defend their Six Nations title.

Dan Lydiate has no doubt that Wales will be "ready to go" for their RBS 6 Nations title defence this season.

Wales' form in European rugby's blue riband competition contrasts starkly with their record against southern hemisphere heavyweights New Zealand, South Africa and Australia.

Since Warren Gatland took over as head coach in early 2008, Wales have won 22 out of 30 Six Nations games, landing three titles and two Grand Slams.

But the former Tri-Nations teams have collectively triumphed on 22 occasions from 23 starts, with Wales' victory over Australia five years ago representing their solitary success under Gatland.

"It is better than last autumn," Wales flanker Lydiate said, contrasting November wins against Argentina and Tonga with a four-Test 2012 November whitewash.

"We have picked up a lot of injuries during this campaign, and some young players have come in and have done themselves justice.

"That bodes well for the future, and although we lost against Australia we can move on again and come back for the Six Nations and be ready to go."

Wales' latest loss to Australia - 30-26 at the Millennium Stadium on Saturday - meant Lydiate and company once again came up short, although they played their part fully in an immense Test match.

"It was a classic Test match that could have gone either way at the end," he added. "We are gutted.

"Looking after the ball and making correct decisions at the right time is not something we managed to do.

"We have been in this situation so many times, which is so disappointing, but it shows great spirit to keep playing for 80 minutes. I know we keep saying it, but we are not far off.

"The speed of ball is just so quick.

"You think there is a ruck there and it will be slow ball, but as soon as you make a tackle you just see the ball flying out and at times it is really hard to defend against.

"It is so hard to defend against someone like (Wallabies fly-half) Quade Cooper because you don't know if he is going to pass, or when you think he will take it into contact, he pulls the pass out the back of the hand.

"These are the best players in the world, so you can't give them any sort of chance because they will punish you.

"When we played against the Reds for the (British and Irish) Lions, he was real quality for them. I remember saying at the time I thought he would be back in the squad by the end of the Lions tour, but that did not happen.

"They do miss a quality player like him, and it shows what he can do when he plays."

Wales centre Scott Williams underlined Cooper's impact on the contest, admitting: "It is like chasing shadows. He is an outstanding player.

"It was definitely as hard as anything defending-wise because they have so many threats in attack.

"They have individuals who are outstanding world-class players, so it's hard to be sure what they are going to do, so you have to try to second-guess them. I thought our defensive effort was good, and we did well to stay in the game.

"It felt like we were tackling, tackling and tackling in the first half, but when we had a bit of ball after the break we put them under pressure."

And in terms of converting southern hemisphere defeats into victories, Williams added: "It's just accuracy, composure and making fewer errors. It is a fine margin, but it's the difference between winning and losing."

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