Sunday, July 21, 2024

It is ‘non-negotiable’ that Wales win second Test in Australia – Owen Watkin

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Owen Watkin says it is “non-negotiable” that Wales win Saturday’s second Test against Australia in Melbourne.

Wales face the Wallabies for a second time in eight days, having lost 25-16 last weekend.

That defeat was Wales’ eighth on the bounce and they have not won a Test match since beating 2023 World Cup pool-stage opponents Georgia.

Another defeat against Australia would leave Wales one short of their worst Test run, which was a 10-game sequence in 2002 and 2003 under New Zealander Steve Hansen.

Wales boss Warren Gatland has just a 30 per cent success rate during his second stint as Wales boss, with 14 defeats since he took over from Wayne Pivac for the 2023 Six Nations.

“We were massively disappointed with the (first Test) result because we went into the game fully believing we could win,” Wales centre Watkin said.

“We left a lot of opportunities out there, but we weren’t happy with the penalty count and the errors we made.

“There is still a positive vibe in the camp and it is now non-negotiable – we need a win on Saturday.

“We put ourselves in a position to win last weekend, but the penalty and error count let us down. We will try to put that right for Saturday.”

Watkin looks set to win his 41st cap, lining up alongside Mason Grady in midfield and he is a key part of Gatland’s machinery, especially now that George North has retired from international rugby.

Only four players in Wales’ tour squad – full-back Liam Williams, scrum-half Gareth Davies, prop Dillon Lewis and number eight Aaron Wainwright – have played more Tests than the Ospreys centre.

“It was only our second game together,” Watkin added, on his combination with Grady. “He is a massive bloke, so the more times we can get him on the ball the better it will be for us as an attacking team.

“Hopefully, we can build a partnership into the future.

“They have put a lot of faith in me to lead by example and I am loving taking a senior role. I am enjoying setting the standards and the pressure they have put on me.

“Australia can feel as confident as they like after last weekend’s win. We just concentrate on ourselves. We just fell short last weekend and we don’t want that to happen again.”

Wales’ latest loss saw them drop to 11th place on World Rugby’s official rankings list – their lowest position since its launch 21 years ago.

That comes just five years after Wales briefly held the world number one spot, which underlines their current plight.

Assistant coach Rob Howley says Wales must keep knocking at the door (David Davies/PA)

Wales assistant coach Rob Howley said: “We keep challenging our players to improve individually and collectively.

“We back our players’ decisions. We hope at some point through that experience of these players playing more international games, we will get over the line.

“We have to keep knocking at the door, working hard, trusting the systems and keep believing.”

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