Flanker Aaron Wainwright insists Wales have only taken a “small step” towards repeating their Grand Slam triumph after thumping Italy 42-0 and admits the team will have to make significant improvements to deliver a win over Ireland in Dublin on Saturday.
The Irish managed to edge out mistake ridden Scotland 19-12 while Wainwright was using his back row skills to deliver the quick ball to help Josh Adams race over for a hat-trick of tries in the bonus point win over the Italians. Wainwright’s heavy hitting tackles will be needed in Dublin and he was a key figure in shutting out Italy and stopping the opposition scoring in a championship match for the first time since 1974.
Wainwright, 22, who is enhancing his own profile as a potential back row test opting for the British and Irish Lions in South Africa next year, said: “This is definitely a small step and we can improve from how we played. Little things didn’t got that well and we are looking to be very attacking( as a team) and that is something we are going to build on. We now want to take that forward and after half time we were a bit slow to start up and we will aim to put that right for Ireland.
“We are confident going to Dublin not having conceded any points and defending the title is more of a challenge rather than a pressure to win it back and we want to stake our claim going forward over the next couple of years and it would brilliant to do it again. After the Italy we are pretty confident and playing in the wide channels more does suit me and I enjoy getting my hands on the ball in those areas.”
The arrival of new head coach Wayne Pivac and his management team has ensure the squad cannot take selection for granted despite last season’s Grand Slam triumph and reaching the World Cup semi-finals in Japan. “It’s a new coaching regime with some new ideas and to come away with five points is the perfect start to this campagin:” he added. “ Josh is on fire and it is great to see him carrying on that form from the World Cup and when you know there is someobe out there in the wide channels to get the ball over the white line then it makes you want to put in the hard yards and make those carries so he can score in the corners.
“It is a good marker to put down and hopefully we can keep this going. We are always looking to improve and we performed well in the defence and didn’t concede any points. It was the first I had played with Toby (Faletau) and he is a brilling player and to get a chance alongside was great. Whenever a new coach comes in you don’t know who they are going with and what is going to be their preference but we have such a good depth in the back row and competition for places is massive and we push each other in training.”