November 11, 2017 / 8:55 PM / a year ago

Tale of two centres as Gatland sees positives in Australia defeat

CARDIFF (Reuters) - Warren Gatland was pleased with Owen Williams’ first start at centre in Wales’ 29-21 defeat to Australia at the Millennium Stadium on Saturday, but is concerned about injured midfield partner Jonathan Davies.

Rugby Union - Autumn Internationals - Wales vs Australia - Principality Stadium, Cardiff, Britain - November 11, 2017 Wales head coach Warren Gatland before the match REUTERS/Rebecca Naden

Williams has spent much of his career at flyhalf, but has now won both his international caps in the inside-centre berth — the first as a substitute against Tonga in June — and Gatland was pleased with his performance against the Australians.

“I thought Owen Williams went well. He defended well in that channel,” Gatland told reporters. “The message was to be patient and when we kept our patience we created some opportunities out wide. There were too many occasions when we tried to force it.

“On the whole, I thought there were some real positives in an attacking perspective.”

Davies had to be helped from the field after he picked up an injury in the final seconds of the contest and Gatland says Wales will have to wait to find out the full extent of the problem.

“It looks like an ankle injury at the moment. He’s being strapped up and on crutches. It doesn’t look brilliant but we’ll know more in the next 24 hours,” he said.

Wales’ loss is their 13th straight defeat to the Australians, who they meet in the pool stages of the 2019 Rugby World Cup in Japan.

Gatland says picking up a victory in two years’ time will be much more important.

“Our whole focus is on planning for the World Cup: exposing some young players and giving them opportunities, developing the game that we can play; different styles.

“We don’t look on that in terms of those defeats, we feel that the nice thing is that we’ve got them in our group and we have the next two years together to prepare for it. We’ll go into that group with a lot of confidence.”

Apart from those forced on him by injury, Gatland suggested there would be changes for next Saturday’s clash with Georgia.

“There will be some younger boys getting a chance. Some players who have been out of the squad a while will get an opportunity,” he said.

“It’s a chance for players to put themselves in contention for the All Blacks game (on Nov. 25). It’s about assessing where this group is in the next 48 hours, seeing how they come back on Monday.”

Reporting By Nick Said,; Editing by Neville Dalton

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