DUBLIN Feb 5 Wales will have to improve
if they are to take advantage of an exhilarating win over
Ireland on Sunday and challenge for the Six Nations
championship, captain Sam Warburton said after a game slightly
marred by weak kicking and dangerous tackling.
Wales, who repeated their quarter-final victory over Ireland
from last year's World Cup with a nailbiting 23-21 win, face
Scotland in Cardiff next weekend before travelling to Twickenham
for a possible triple crown showdown with England.
"We have to improve a bit by next week. We don't think we
were anywhere near the best we could have played," Warburton,
who was taken off at halftime with a dead leg, told reporters.
"The next two games we have are a real test for us."
Leigh Halfpenny's last-minute penalty gave Wales victory but
they failed to close out the game after dominating much of the
first half and lock Bradley Davies narrowly avoided a red card
after a spear tackle.
Wales missed two of three conversion attempts and two of
"We got out of jail and won our first game away from home,"
said coach Warren Gatland, who acknowledged Davies could have
been sent off.
"We have to see if we can get that confidence and self
belief and be accurate and do the simple things well...I think
we can do really well in this championship," he added.
"When we get it right we are going to be good."
Ireland, who had hoped to avenge their dismantling by Wales
in New Zealand in October, were left to pick up the pieces after
the national team again failed to match the dominance their
provincial teams have shown in Europe.
"We conceded a lot of momentum in the first half and gave
them a lot of belief. We probably didn't defend with our heads
up," said captain Paul O'Connell, whose Munster team is one of
three Irish sides in the Heineken Cup quarter-finals.
"You can't give a team that kind of time with ball in hand,
it puts you under a lot of pressure."
After a disappointing World Cup, Ireland are running out of
opportunities for silverware before the expected retirement of
their 'Golden Generation' of players - fly half Ronan O'Gara,
second row O'Connell and centre Brian O'Driscoll -- in the
Coach Declan Kidney, who picked Jonathan Sexton ahead of
O'Gara, vowed to bounce back against France in Paris next
Saturday and challenge for the championship.
"I think we're a lot better than that," Kidney said. "We
have buckets to work on and six days to do it.
"There is a championship still to be won and that's what
we'll work towards," he said.
(Editing by Mark Meadows)