Wales rise for Lions

Rob Howley reckons Wales' stars enhanced their Lions prospects as they demolished England to retain the RBS 6 Nations title. [more]

Wales rise for Lions

Rob Howley reckons Wales’ stars enhanced their Lions prospects as they demolished England to retain the RBS 6 Nations title.

The reigning champions stormed past Grand Slam chasing England with a devastating second-half performance, in which Alex Cuthbert grabbed a brace.

Howley claimed the performance was all about Wales and the Three Feathers. But he admits the record victory over the old enemy puts his players in good stead for the summer tour of Australia.

"It was about Wales, the red jersey with the Three Feathers,” said Howley, who will take charge of the Lions’ backs.

“But they haven’t done their chances too much harm. They've done really well.

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“As a player you know coming into a Championship in a Lions year how important your performances are going to be.

They are under the microscope throughout the Championship and they performed as you would expect – they turned up.

“The pressure was on us a bit more. Everyone was talking about England winning and the points difference.

“We just had to make sure we started well and some of them might have a busy summer.

"The players deserve that recognition and Warren Gatland deserves to be recognised for the environment he has created for both the players and the coaches.”

Wales lost their opening match of the Championship 30-23 to Ireland and at one point found themselves trailing 30-3 – the same score-line they recorded on Saturday.

But they ended the tournament with a hat-trick of away wins over France, Italy and Scotland before putting England to the sword.

And Howley reckons the way Wales fought to claw back the title is a bigger achievement than the 2012 Grand Slam.

“To do what we have done here against England and win the title is better than winning the Slam last year.

“The players have been outstanding to turn things around after the first half against Ireland and we out-classed England.

“We always said a good team does not go bad overnight and the players have delivered

“I'm delighted in terms of winning but more so the performance they showed in the second half – they are not a bad team.
We felt it (England’s inexperience) could be important but you just don't know. Our experience of the semi-finals of the Rugby World Cup, Grand Slams 2008 and 2012 and Australia in particular, having lost that series 3-0 was crucial.

“Those lessons you have as coaches and players, you need to learn from and you saw in 80 minutes we've learnt a bit in six months.”

Jamie Roberts was one of the players to roar back to their best at the Millennium Stadium cauldron.

And the 2009 Lions Man of the Series quipped that all 23 of Wales’ match-day squad members should be on the plane Down Under.

“It would be great if we could get all 23 on the plane but this was about Wales winning,” added Roberts.

“Obviously there’ll be a lot of stuff discussed about the Lions over the next couple of months.

“People will put their hands up but it’s up to the coach, it’s out of your hands.

“The most important thing is that Wales have retained the Championship. At the moment that’s what it’s all about.”

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