Wales top the world rugby rankings for the first time in their history, but coach Warren Gatland was more pleased with the character that they showed on Saturday in the gritty 13-6 win over England.
George North’s converted try — his 38th for his country — was the difference between the sides, with Wales replacing world champions New Zealand at the top of the rankings.
England looked a shadow of the side that beat Wales 33-19 at Twickenham on Sunday last week, their lack of punch in attack reflected by failing to score a point in the first half for the first time since the 2011 Rugby World Cup match with France.
The All Blacks had held the spot for almost a decade — reaching the pinnacle in the standings in November 2009 — and their 36-0 demolition of Australia earlier on Saturday suggests that Wales’ stay at the top might be a short one.
Gatland, who ends his 12-year tenure at the end of the World Cup, did not make too much of being No. 1.
“It’s just a number, isn’t it?” he said. “It is a nice accolade to have, but it is all about the next few months and backing that up by performing well in the World Cup.”
“Lots of journalists will be out there saying: ‘This is a joke’ — probably Kiwi journalists more than anything!” he added. “It’s just a number.”
FRANCE VS SCOTLAND
Veteran full-back Maxime Medard on Saturday scored twice as France hammered Scotland 32-3 in their first Rugby World Cup warm-up Test in Nice.
Medard, 32, winning his 57th cap, dotted down either side of the break for his first tries in more than three years.
The fixture was the first outing of the side since the appointment of former French captain Fabien Galthie as an advisor to head coach Jacques Brunel, before he takes over from the 65-year-old after the World Cup in Japan.
“We were opportunistic. We managed to score some good tries. We could have scored more, but it’s a satisfactory match that will do some good to our spirits,” Brunel said.
Sa VS ARGENTINA
Argentina coach Mario Ledesma on Saturday said that “it feels a lot better,” despite losing to South Africa for the second consecutive weekend.
The Pumas fell 24-18 to the Springboks in a World Cup warm-up Test in Pretoria, seven days after suffering a 33-point drubbing at home in the Rugby Championship.
It was the second-lowest losing margin for Argentina of 12 Test losses in South Africa.
Argentina impressed with hard-hitting defense and robust forward play during a Pretoria Test in which they had a couple of tries disallowed.
“Boy, it feels a lot better,” said former hooker Ledesma, who replaced struggling Daniel Hourcade in the middle of last year. “Looking at the big picture, we know where we are going. We had a bad game last week, especially our forwards, but we stood up today and were really physical. We had tries disallowed tonight and I thought that one of them was a try. We were camped in their 22 a couple of times and they defended well.”
“We still have a month before the World Cup. There is a lot to do, but everything will fall into place,” Ledesma added.
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