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Warren Gatland hails Wales response to England defeat with Italy thrashing

Wales boss Warren Gatland paid tribute to his players after they bounced back from their title-ending Twickenham torture to end this season's RBS 6 Nations campaign in record-breaking fashion.

Seven days on from a defeat against England that left Wales playing only for runners-up spot when Italy arrived at the Principality Stadium, they cut loose.

A 67-14 victory proved Wales' biggest in Six Nations history, surpassing a 48-point winning margin against Scotland two years ago, and also the most points for them during one championship game as second place was emphatically secured.

Ross Moriarty (2), George North, Jonathan Davies, Jamie Roberts, Liam Williams, Rhys Webb, Gareth Davies and Dan Biggar claimed touchdowns, with Biggar kicking five conversions and two penalties for a 21-point haul, while Rhys Priestland added three late conversions.

"We are all disappointed with what happened last week," Gatland said. "As coaches and players, we had an in-house meeting about what we could have done differently.

"The players were incredibly honest, and we spoke about how important it was to go out and deliver a performance, and in fairness to the players they did that.

"I was hugely impressed by the way they responded to the disappointment of last week and putting it behind us to focus on finishing second (in the championship).

"We have spoken about trying to change our game in this competition, and it doesn't happen overnight. It takes a bit of time when you are trying to change things.

"We haven't quite clicked during this campaign, but there are times when we have clicked - the last part of the second half against England, and today, and in parts of other games where we have started to show something that looks like it is a game we can develop."

Man-of-the-match North became only the second Wales player after Shane Williams eight years ago to score tries in four successive Six Nations Tests.

And Gatland added: "George has started to play in this campaign with a smile on his face and with real confidence, and he is probably getting back to where he was in 2013.

"He is in a really good place at the moment. Hopefully, we can build on that, and I am pretty excited about the summer (New Zealand tour)."

Gatland, meanwhile, said that Ospreys flanker Justin Tipuric was taken to hospital for observation after hitting his head on the turf after a nasty fall from a 15th-minute lineout.

And looking ahead to the three-Test New Zealand trip in June against what will be a new-look All Blacks side, Gatland said: "I don't think you would ever underestimate New Zealand with the quality of players they've got.

"With any team, you have got to go and believe in your own ability. We are wasting our time getting on the plane if we don't think we can go down there and push New Zealand hard.

"Everyone talks about southern hemisphere (teams) moving the ball wide and the points and tries they score. Well, the last two southern hemisphere teams we've played, Australia never scored a try against us and South Africa scored one in the last four minutes.

"We have got to go down there believing that on our day and if things go right, that we are good enough to win."

Italy claimed second-half consolation scores from scrum-half Guglielmo Palazzani and centre Gonzalo Garcia, with Kelly Haimona kicking two conversions, but they suffered another landslide Six Nations defeat just seven days on from conceding 58 points against Ireland.

They have won just 12 out of 85 Six Nations games, while this season was their 11th wooden spoon for finishing last. They also conceded 29 tries, with 18 of those coming in their last two matches.

It will inevitably re-energise a debate about promotion and relegation involving the Six Nations and Europe's Tier 2 countries, but Italy skipper Sergio Parisse is standing firm.

"When you lose matches, it is normal that everyone talks about relegation. I understand that," Parisse said.

"But I think there is no way to have relegation in this tournament because can you imagine next year if someone like Ireland or Scotland are last and got relegated? Do you think the (national) federations are going to accept that? Imagine France have a really, really poor campaign.

"I really respect all the other nations - Georgia and Romania have really progressed a lot - but we have been involved in this tournament because we have had some great results.

"We have beaten Ireland, Wales, we beat France a few times, and Scotland, and we win the respect from everyone to be involved in this tournament.

"Obviously, it's a difficult campaign, but I think at the same time the other nations must have historic results as we did in the past and maybe one day be involved in this tournament, but there is no way to do relegation.

"If one day, anyone decides we must be involved in a relegation match with another nation, we are going to accept that and play 100 per cent."


From Belfast Telegraph