Gatland praises Lions pair
Head coach pleased with Wales' performance
By Rachel Griffiths. Last Updated: 20/03/10 6:24pm
Phillips: Praised by Gatland
Wales head coach Warren Gatland heaped praise on returning duo Gethin Jenkins and Mike Phillips following his side's convincing 33-10 win against Italy.
"It was a lot better and let's not underestimate that when you have two world-class players back it makes a massive difference."
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The Welsh, who were RBS Six Nations Grand Slam champions two years ago, finished fourth in the table for the second consecutive year despite delivering a commanding victory in Cardiff.
But Gatland was encouraged by his side's performance, and paid special tribute to British and Irish Lions pair Jenkins and Phillips, who returned to the side after recovering from injury.
"It was a good performance, very professional. We kept our patience, kept our discipline well and we didn't panic," said Gatland.
"It was a lot better and let's not underestimate that when you have two world-class players back it makes a massive difference. When you are missing one or two it does impact on your performance.
"We're very disappointed with the season and we're not hiding behind that. We're frustrated - we let a couple of games slip.
"If we are accurate, keep our discipline and just learn to play with a bit more composure in tight situations we think we are capable of beating any side in the world."
Assistant coach Shaun Edwards insists Wales' display was reminiscent of the form that led to their clean sweep in 2008.
"Today we saw the real Wales," said Edwards. "We have a very good first XV and as soon as we get our marquee players back we are the Wales of 2008."
Captain Ryan Jones added: "I think the boys did themselves justice. Two games we could and maybe should have won, but there's nothing you can do about it."
Italy coach Nick Mallett was impressed by his side's gritty display, but admits the gruelling campaign has had a detrimental effect on his injury-hit squad.
"We started well, but in the second period of the first half we didn't have enough ball," said Mallett.
"And, of course, when you get a yellow card (Mauro Bergamasco was sin-binned) against a side that plays wide and has players like Byrne, Williams, Hook and Roberts it's hard to keep them out.
"We've played the whole Six Nations without Sergio Parisse and I have nothing to complain about my team.
"We showed great courage. Our dressing room is like a hospital and I'm glad this was our last game because I'm not sure we can play another."