Welsh captain finds the positives after letting victory against Australia slip late in Cardiff.
Wales captain Sam Warburton insisted his side’s 30-26 defeat to Australia at Cardiff’s Millennium Stadium wasn’t a roadblock, even though it represented a ninth straight loss to their 2015 World Cup pool rivals.
For Wales, this latest reverse was their 22nd defeat in 23 Tests against the southern hemisphere giants of South Africa, New Zealand and Australia under coach Warren Gatland, and their 18th loss in a row against the SANZAR trio since they beat the Wallabies back in 2008.
However, Warburton — tour captain of the British and Irish Lions side that won 2-1 in Australia earlier this year — did his best to downplay Saturday’s result in the final international of 2013 by saying his focus had already turned to the next edition of Europe’s Six Nations Championship, where Wales will be bidding for a third successive title.
“It is not a setback,” Warburton said. “Everyone is looking at the World Cup, but two years is a real long time to when that comes around.
“The motivation for the players today (Saturday) was not having one-up on Australia for the World Cup pool. It’s a long way away.
“Our focus already turns to the Six Nations. No-one has won the Six Nations three years running, and that will be the target for this group of players moving forward,” added the flanker ahead of Wales’s tournament opener at home to Italy on February 1.
Wales had Saturday’s first points in the opening minute when Lions wing George North went over for the first of his two tries.
But in an end-to-end encounter Australia scored three of their own through centre Christian Leali’ifano, full-back Israel Folau and wing Joe Tomane.
Leali’ifano also kicked 15 points, although the star performer in Australia’s back division was fly-half Quade Cooper, who marked his 50th Test with several defence-splitting passes.
“It was a great game of rugby if you were a neutral or an Australian. It was a real Test match out there,” said Gatland, the Lions’ coach in Australia.
“We are knocking on the door. The thing is with the southern hemisphere now, which is different to the past, is that they are coming here fully loaded and not making changes.
The New Zealander also praised the way his side came back from 30-16 down in the second half to be within a try of victory at the finish — a score they couldn’t achieve despite Australia being a man down for the closing minutes after Cooper was sin-binned.
“We dug deep and we showed courage to come back. Our fitness looked good in the second half and we put ourselves in a position where we had a chance to win it,” Gatland said.
“We are knocking at the door at the moment and at some stage we are going to knock it over. We were under a bit of pressure and we kept well in it right until the end.”