Six Nations 2019: Gatland's fist pump and bear hug show how big a deal it is to beat England

By Dafydd PritchardBBC Sport Wales at Principality Stadium
Six Nations: Scotland v Wales
Venue: Murrayfield, Edinburgh Date: Saturday, 9 March Kick-off: 14:15 GMT
Coverage: Live on BBC One, S4C, BBC Radio 5 live, BBC Radio Wales, BBC Radio Cymru & BBC Sport website and BBC Sport app, plus live text commentary.

Warren Gatland is not one to give much away. There is barely a flicker of feeling on his face during the course of a match - maybe a little smile after a win, perhaps a shrug or a roll of the eyes in defeat, rare as those are these days.

So when he pumped his fists and grabbed his assistant coaches for a bear hug as Wales closed in on victory over England, you knew this was a big deal.

Gatland is more methodical than emotional, a man who always seems to have a plan.

For more than a year, Wales' head coach has been meticulously preparing his side for the World Cup in the autumn.

The New Zealander has transformed Wales' strength in depth by selecting a host of new players and taken the squad away to the French Riviera for a training camp to foster the kind of tour mentality they will need in Japan.

But, most importantly, Gatland has instilled in his players an inherent will to win.

Saturday's triumph was a record 12th in succession for Wales, keeping alive their hopes of a Grand Slam and providing something of a statement of intent with the World Cup on the horizon.

"When it really matters, we've fronted up in the past and tended to perform," said Gatland.

"I knew how important this game would be. My experience with Wales in the past is that we always get stronger as tournaments go on."

With that in mind, Gatland will be increasingly confident about his chances of adding a fourth Six Nations title to his record.

Not that he has ever lacked confidence, declaring before the start of this year's tournament that Wales would win it if they started with victory in France, as they did.

"It would be nice," Gatland said when asked about the prospect of winning a third Grand Slam in his final year in charge.

"I try not to get too far ahead of myself."

Gatland knows better than to get carried away after one win, even after one as seismic as Saturday's.

And while he will not be looking too far ahead, Gatland will be looking far enough ahead to know his side are on the right path with the World Cup in mind.

"Everyone was writing us off before so we're just happy to come under the radar," he said.

"We're not talking ourselves up. There's a long way before that comes."

Finishing off the 'finishers'

'England didn't put us under any pressure' - Wales coach Gatland

Gatland seems to relish the role of the underdog. In the build-up to Saturday's match, he laughed off England coach Eddie Jones' seemingly tongue-in-cheek remark that this is the "greatest Wales side ever".

Both coaches appeared to be falling over each other to proclaim their opponents as the favourites for this match; the usual kidology and verbal jousting which fill the column inches and airwaves in the days and weeks leading to this fixture.

And while Gatland could legitimately masquerade as an underdog on this occasion after England's blistering start to the Six Nations, deep down he knew his side were more than capable of winning.

"England were outstanding in the first two games," he said.

"I look back on England in the last few years. When it's really mattered, I've questioned whether they can win these big games.

"We've had a record of being pretty good in them.

"We knew exactly where we were and I said to the players they (England) had no idea what animal was turning up this week, but we did.

"It was probably one of the best weeks that I've had with the team.

"I knew we were right mentally, but we still have some improvements in our game.

"The bench was good and I thought we finished really strongly."

Gatland's praise for the replacements was telling.

Expanding Wales' pool of Test-quality players has been one of his priorities in recent seasons, and the improving strength in depth was evident against England, as it was in the autumn wins over Australia and South Africa.

Jones is credited with coining the phrase "finishers" to describe replacements, so there was a certain symmetry to the way Wales ruthlessly finished off England thanks in no small part to their players who came on, particularly fly-half Dan Biggar.

"That's been the biggest thing that we have strived for in the last few years, making sure we had impact and accuracy coming off the bench," said Gatland.

"In the past, that's been our biggest weakness, continuing momentum or building on the momentum created by the starters.

"The boys coming off the bench did a fantastic job for us and they've been doing that for the last year or so.

"The competition within the squad is helping with that and players are fighting hard for their positions. So we're in a good place at the moment.

"I'm very proud of the boys and it was a great performance and they should enjoy their party tonight."

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