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Page last updated at 18:50 GMT, Saturday, 23 February 2008

Toughest tests to come - Gatland

Ryan Jones is blitzed by the Italian mob defence
Ryan Jones has challenged his team to 'finish the job'

Wales coach Warren Gatland has warned his Grand Slam chasers they have their toughest Six Nations games to come.

Unbeaten Wales clinched their third successive win as they beat Italy by a record 47-8 in Cardiff but Gatland is cautious with Ireland and France ahead.

Wales play a Triple Crown decider in Dublin on 8 March and Gatland said: "It is nice that we go there confident.

"The final games are crucial but they are probably the two hardest games of the championship."

Gatland is enjoying a fairytale start to his Welsh coaching tenure.

But the coach is desperate to guard against complacency as the Welsh public dream of a heroic repeat of the 2005 Grand Slam triumph.

"You must be satisfied to put 40 points on Italy," said Gatland.

We're going out to Ireland extremely confident

Wales coach Ryan Jones

"With the points we scored, even if we lose to Ireland, we still have a good chance of winning the tournament if we beat France in Cardiff in our final game."

Former Ireland coach Gatland returns to Dublin on 8 March hoping to win his new employers a Triple Crown and deny his old team the honour.

But the New Zealander insists he has no added personal desire just because the crucial showdown is against Ireland.

"There'll be no extra incentive," maintained Gatland.

"I'm just looking forward to going to Croke Park after winning three out of three in the Six Nations.

"When Ireland are at their best, they are a difficult team to beat.


"If we suceed there then we win the Triple Crown and give ourselves the chance of a shot at the Grand Slam.

"There is a lot at stake but we must remain focused and don't get too carried away."

Like his coach, Wales skipper Ryan Jones has enjoyed a winning start to his reign, but hopes to finish the job they have started.

"We're going out to Ireland extremely confident," said the number eight.

"We'll put this game to bed and then work just as hard as we've done so far. Hopefully it will go our way again."

Gatland added: "Against Italy, the boys were keen to make amends for recent poor results against them so their mind was on the job.

It is nice to see a player in such good form who is so relaxed yet confident

Warren Gatland on Lee Byrne

"The way the boys trained on Friday, I thought to myself 'wow!' That kind of desire needs to continue."

Both Shane Williams and Lee Byrne enjoyed try doubles against the Azzurri as Wales backed up wins over England and Scotland with a ruthless display at The Millennium Stadium.

Tom Shanklin also crowned his 50th cap with a try while the recalled Stephen Jones enjoyed a 100% kicking record, scoring 20 points with his faultless right foot.

Between them, Jones and James Hook have not missed a kick at goal yet in the tournament.

But it was Ospreys full-back Byrne, who suffered the axe from previous coach Gareth Jenkins' World Cup squad, who won the man-of-the-match award.

"Lee has hardly put a foot wrong for me," Gatland added.

"His kicking game is fantastic, in the air he is great and it is nice to see a player in such good form who is so relaxed yet confident."

Gatland confirmed scrum-half Dwayne Peel will be "okay" for the trip to Dublin after suffering a blow to the head against Italy.

Lock Alun Wyn Jones will also have recovered from an ankle ligament injury in time.

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see also
Byrne hails 'outstanding' Wales
23 Feb 08 |  Welsh
Wales 47-8 Italy
23 Feb 08 |  Rugby Union
Wales v Italy match stats
20 Mar 10 |  Rugby Union
Wales 30-15 Scotland
09 Feb 08 |  Rugby Union
Italy 19-23 England
10 Feb 08 |  Rugby Union
England 19-26 Wales
02 Feb 08 |  Rugby Union
Ireland 16-11 Italy
02 Feb 08 |  Rugby Union
BBC Sport Wales coverage
21 Feb 08 |  Wales

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