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Last Updated: Saturday, 9 February 2008, 20:01 GMT
Fear drives Wales team forward

Shaun Edwards (L) and Warren Gatland
Gatland (R) and Edwards discuss tactics during the victory over Scotland

By Bruce Pope
BBC Sport at the Millennium Stadium

Wales are running scared.

Is it the opposition, or the thought of being screamed at by coach Warren Gatland and assistant Shaun Edwards?

No, none of those, the message coming from the players is that they are petrified of losing, and petrified of losing their place in the team such is the competition now within the squad.

Wales followed up last week's victory at Twickenham with a 30-15 win over Scotland in Cardiff on Saturday.

The final scoreline looks comfortable, but Wales needed to call on their reserves to get over the finishing line when Scotland pulled to within two points as the final quarter of the match approached.

While the Welsh nation is already starting to dream of a Grand Slam decider against France, the players are firmly grounded

Ospreys half-back pair Mike Phillips and James Hook had had a decent enough game - Hook claiming a fine try and kicking his penalties.

But Wales had not been able to pull away from the Scots despite having the better of the territory and the possession.

When Chris Paterson, restored to the Scotland starting line-up, kicked his fifth penalty to cut Wales' lead to 17-15, Gatland acted swiftly.

On came Stephen Jones and Dwayne Peel, the Llanelli Scarlets half-back partnership.

"We needed a little more experience to bring us home in the last 15-20 minutes, guys who had been around a while," Gatland said.

"Stephen Jones did that superbly and kicked a couple of good penalties as well."

Being able to call on a pairing that has been good enough for the Lions is a great luxury for Gatland, while prop Gethin Jenkins - also a selection for the British and Irish side - was also in reserve.

The message the Kiwi coach has sent out is that he will only settle for the best, and woe betide anyone who falls below his standards.

606: DEBATE
BBC Sport's Bruce Pope

Even a first win in 20 years at Twickenham was not enough to save some players from losing their places against Scotland, harsh perhaps but it is an ethos the players have embraced.

Usually in post-match interviews players dwell on the 'big' moments in a match.

Now those decisive moments are interspersed with regretful recollections of little incidents, small mistakes made that they are determined to correct next time - if selected, of course.

While the Welsh nation is already starting to dream of a Grand Slam decider against France on 15 March in Cardiff, the players are firmly grounded and fretting over dropped balls, missed tackles and misplaced passes.

Gatland and Edwards are certainly happy with how their stewardship has begun, the head coach even allowing himself to look ahead to a possible Triple Crown when Wales visit Ireland on 8 March.

While he may be a tough taskmaster, Gatland is happy to give public credit to the players he has inherited.

"The skill level is brilliant, the attitude is fantastic and there's no team in the Six Nations working as hard as us," Gatland said.

It's not our job to entertain the crowd

Frank Hadden

"The only disappointing thing was a couple of easy penalties that Paterson kicked."

There was even praise for the Millennium Stadium crowd, Edwards saying he was "heartened" by the fans' vocal appreciation of some desperate defence as Scotland battered at the Wales line in the closing stages.

Gatland had a swipe at Scotland by claiming that Wales "were the only side trying to play rugby" and while that may be a little harsh, Scotland desperately need to turn things around.

Visiting coach Frank Hadden responded by saying: "Praise indeed. It's not our job to entertain the crowd, it's our job to try to win."

The Scottish campaign began last week cloaked in genuine optimism for a successful championship, before a lacklustre home loss to France brought expectations crashing.

Scotland defended magnificently in Cardiff, harrying, hurrying, stealing and spoiling Welsh possession.

The TMO went against them to allow Shane Williams' second try after a long, hard look, but Scotland rarely carved out such try-scoring moments for themselves.

Nathan Hines spoiled his 50th Scotland cap by getting sin-binned
Nathan Hines spoiled his 50th Scotland cap by getting sin-binned

That lack of a cutting edge leaves Hadden's men on the back foot and often playing catch-up rugby.

Paterson's return, after being benched against France, gives them a metronomic kicker who keeps the scoreboard ticking over.

Five penalties from five attempts underlined Paterson's worth, his concentration never wavering even in the face of repeated bursts on the stadium PA of the Proclaimer's 'I'm Gonna Be (500 Miles)' every time he scored.

But it was not the result Paterson would have wanted to celebrate passing two milestones.

The Gloucester player became Scotland's most capped back - beating Gregor Townsend's 82 appearances - and overtook Gavin Hastings as the leading Scottish points scorer in Five/Six Nations history.

It was also an unhappy red-letter day for Nathan Hines, the lock winning his 50th cap but earning an early sin-binning for a swipe at Wales full-back Lee Byrne.

Scotland now have two weeks to recuperate before a trip to Dublin against an Ireland side who lost in France on Saturday, but who showed signs of resurgence with a thrilling second-half fight-back.

Wales face Italy in the Millennium Stadium next and there will be some nail-biting as the players wait to see if they have done enough to keep the red shirt on their back.

  • Watch the match in full on BBC iPlayer for seven days from Saturday (UK users only)



    SEE ALSO
    Tom Shanklin column
    10 Feb 08 |  Welsh
    Wales 30-15 Scotland
    09 Feb 08 |  Rugby Union
    Hadden demands Scots improvement
    09 Feb 08 |  Rugby Union
    Wales v Scotland player ratings
    09 Feb 08 |  Rugby Union
    Six Nations photos
    09 Feb 08 |  Rugby Union
    Six Nations as it happened
    09 Feb 08 |  Rugby Union
    Wal v Sco match stats
    31 Jan 08 |  Rugby Union


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