Fine line for Wales – Webb


Published: Friday 13th March 2015 by The News Editor

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Rhys Webb accepts there can be “no margin for error” when Wales attempt to divert Ireland’s seemingly-relentless RBS 6 Nations title march off course on Saturday.

Ireland will arrive at the Millennium Stadium on a run of 10 successive Test match victories under their outstanding coach Joe Schmidt.

If they topple Wales – Ireland have only lost twice in Cardiff since 1983 – a win against Scotland on Saturday week would secure a first Six Nations Grand Slam for six years and send them into the World Cup later this year with confidence sky-high.

For their part, Wales still have hopes of landing a third Six Nations crown in the last four years.

But they are currently two points behind Ireland, while also holding an inferior overall points difference compared with the Irish and fellow title contenders England, whose last two games are Twickenham appointments with Scotland and France.

“To win the title would be a massive achievement after the disappointment of losing to England (last month),” said Wales scrum-half Webb, who starts against Ireland for the first time in his Test career.

“We know that we have to beat Ireland to remain in contention.

“To be fair, they have won 10 games on the bounce. They are a world-class team – the best in Europe.

“We have had a good week’s training, and the boys are positive. We’ve stepped it up from the England game, so hopefully we can bring a big performance out this weekend.”

Key to Ireland’s victory hopes will be the implementation of tactics by half-backs Johnny Sexton and Conor Murray. They delivered a masterful display in tormenting England two weeks ago, and Wales are understandably on red alert.

“It was an outstanding kicking performance,” Webb added. “I don’t know if England did much analysis on them – they didn’t seem to put much pressure on nine and 10 whatsoever.

“The kick is only as good as the chase, and playing with Bowey (Tommy Bowe) at the Ospreys, every time I put a box-kick up he would always go and get it back for me.

“Murray and Sexton are key players, but Bowe, (Rob) Kearney and (Simon) Zebo are good in the air and their chase is obviously as good as the kick.

“They have got a lot of dangerous players.

“We just need to be on the money, and we know there is no margin for error because Sexton will keep kicking the three points over and he can also put us in the wrong parts of the field.

“We just need to keep on top of it and keep lots of pressure on them.”

Webb has been one of the individual success stories of Wales’ season, having been selected ahead of 92 times-capped Mike Phillips for the autumn opener against Australia in November, and going on to score four tries in his last six Tests.

And Webb’s creative ability has also shone through, which he illustrated by making a decisive break that led to his half-back colleague Dan Biggar scoring a crucial try during victory against France that continued Wales’ Six Nations recovery act.

“I do not get nervous before a match,” Webb said:

“I try to think it is just another game for my local club. It relaxes me and makes me play with a smile on my face.

“If I do see a gap, then I am going to go.

“If we score from it, or make yardage and get over the gain-line, then it is all going to help the team and get front-foot ball – then hopefully speed of ball – and create some space out wide for our dangerous backs.

“You just have to pick your moment, really. You can’t do it all the time. It is about being smart and picking the right time to go.”

Webb, 26, lists three former stars of the world game – Justin Marshall, Joost van der Westhuizen and current Wales assistant coach Rob Howley – as scrum-halves he admired growing up.

And the Howley connection – Webb used to be a ball-boy at Bridgend Rugby club when Howley played for them – is flourishing within the Wales set-up.

“I want to be the best I can be,” Webb added. “And that means working hard on and off the pitch, honing my skills such as passing and kicking, and keeping my focus at all times.

“As long as I do my job the best I can, the rest will take care of itself.”

And Howley said: “Rhys is an individual running danger, and he brings the forwards into the game between nine and 10. He has an eye for a break and can score from five or 20 yards.

“His kicking and composure is very good, and we have seen over the last two games (against Scotland and France) his ability to be kicking accurately from nine, which is a huge part of the game, particularly in coming out of defence.”

Published: Friday 13th March 2015 by The News Editor

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