Shane Williams: 'Wales have missed Warren Gatland'

Warren Gatland
Warren Gatland guided the British and Irish Lions to a series win over Australia in 2013

Wales have missed British and Irish Lions coach Warren Gatland despite winning three matches in the autumn series, says former wing Shane Williams.

Gatland has taken a year's sabbatical to coach the Lions in his native New Zealand next summer.

Ex-Wales captain Rob Howley has stepped up as head coach for the season.

Williams said the Wales team had been used to having Gatland around "with his personality and coaching style".

Howley oversaw wins in the autumn series against Argentina, Japan and South Africa but has been criticised, especially following the opening hammering by Australia.

"It has affected Wales and put pressure on Rob and the coaching staff and maybe that has affected Wales and the way they want to play," Williams said.

"Warren's absence will have an effect, although Rob has worked well enough with Warren to know the style he does want to play."

Shane Williams
Shane Williams is Wales' most-capped winger with 87 appearances for his nation

Young Ospreys outside-half Sam Davies was restricted to three replacement cameos which included a match-winning drop-goal against Japan, while teenage wing Keelan Giles was selected for the match-day squad against Japan but not used.

Williams believes Wales' failure to blood young players in the autumn series was a "wasted opportunity".

"Because there's no real silverware at stake, teams bring young players over on tour, try players out," added Williams.

"Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't, but I think you've got to gamble sometimes.

"I was disappointed Rob didn't do that. Japan would have been the perfect opportunity for Sam Davies and Keelan Giles to start."

Wales' 2017 Six Nations fixtures
Sunday, 5 FebruaryItaly v Wales
Saturday, 11 FebruaryWales v England
Saturday, 25 FebruaryScotland v Wales
Friday, 10 MarchWales v Ireland
Saturday, 18 MarchFrance v Wales

But Williams believes Saturday's 27-13 victory over South Africa was an improved performance and provides some hope for the Six Nations.

"It was a win and they performed better," said Williams.

"There were some really good individual performances. Gethin Jenkins was superb at the breakdown and Justin Tipuric was class and cemented in the starting side.

"Rob will have learned from a couple of selections he has made and the way he could have played. But he has also taken his team to three wins out of four, so he will be happy."

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