Alun Wyn Jones is out of Wales’s Test against Scotland in Edinburgh next week. Warren Gatland, smarting from a losing start to his second stint in charge of Wales, confirmed that Jones failed a head injury assessment in the second half of his 156th appearance.
“We’ve always wanted to have other players in the squad get opportunities,” he said. “Alun Wyn failed his HIA, so he won’t be available for the next game – so that’s one. Tom Francis came off at half-time with a tight calf, which will need to be scanned. We will look at what players will get an opportunity next week.”
A comprehensive 34-10 defeat, Ireland’s first Six Nations win in Cardiff since 2013, is hardly how Gatland would have wanted to open his second era, but he suggested Wales’s improvement in the second half, during which they held Ireland to 7-7 provided reason for hope. “I thought the second half was a huge improvement. We created chances but just weren’t clinical enough to finish them. I took a lot of positives out of that performance, apart from the scoreboard. But Ireland are the No 1 side in the world, and they showed why this afternoon.”
Ireland’s captain, Johnny Sexton, who is nursing a minor leg injury, spoke of his nerves before his first match since a cheek injury at the start of the year, but is looking forward to next week’s date against France in Dublin. “It is only a start,” he said. “But a bad result today means the triple crown’s gone, the grand slam’s gone. We’re still in the hunt which is brilliant. But there are no easy games in this competition, and none are tougher than next week’s. The team that hasn’t been beaten for a year is coming. We went over to the Stade de France last year, and it was probably the best atmosphere I’ve seen. I’m sure the Irish fans will put on something similar to that.”
Ireland managed to ride the loss on the day of Jamison Gibson-Park and Cian Healy from the squad, to compound the losses of Tadhg Furlong and Robbie Henshaw in the previous few days but did not seem to be at all ruffled.
“We’re delighted to get off to a good start,” said the head coach, Andy Farrell. “The good thing about it is that there were a lot of things we could have used as an excuse over the last 12 days. But our preparation has been top drawer. I think we got what we deserved. It’s a tough place to come and history says exactly that. If you’d offered us a bonus-point win here at the start of the competition, we would have snapped your arm off.”