Rugby Union

Rob Howley preaches togetherness after Wales' defeat to England

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Rob Howley says Wales are "all in it together" as they look to regroup for next Saturday's RBS 6 Nations finale against Italy following their Twickenham torture at the hands of champions England.

Wales' 25-21 defeat two days ago ended hopes of securing a third Six Nations title in five seasons.

Victory over struggling Italy - the Azzurri have never won in Cardiff - would guarantee the runners-up spot but the big prize has gone, taken way beyond Wales' reach by an England side that will now go Grand Slam-hunting at Stade de France.

Monday's player and coaching debrief at Wales' training base promised to be a painful affair, and assistant coach Howley knows there can be no hiding place.

"It has been a very disappointing and frustrating 48 hours since the game," he said.

"It is about looking at yourself in the mirror, coaches included, and asking yourself the questions about the first 20-25 minutes, really.

"Rugby is a game of emotion and unfortunately, we just didn't start well. Have I got the answers? Not at this moment in time.

"Hopefully, over a period of time when we have spoken to the players individually and collectively as coaches, we might have some of those answers.

"It is very disappointing to play in a game of the magnitude that it was, in terms of the championship being on the line, and to give England possession, territory and momentum and to see them build a score of 16-0.

"As coaches and players, we are all in it together. It's not just the players, it's the coaches, the backroom staff.

"When we play for Wales, all of us are playing for Wales, so please don't try and divide and conquer here in terms of players and coaches or the management team. We are as one.

"When you are 16-0 down after 25 minutes, playing against England, it becomes quite frenetic, the pictures are moving very quickly and you do things sometimes which unfortunately you wouldn't normally do if you weren't under pressure on the scoreboard, 16-0 down.

"The second half, we actually beat England 21-9 on the scoreboard. We scored three tries to one. But unfortunately, the first 20 minutes in terms of momentum had a huge influence.

"I am sure many conversations will happen over the next 24-48 hours."

Wales head coach Warren Gatland is due to announce his team for the Italy Test on Tuesday, with at least a handful of changes expected.

Wing Alex Cuthbert's position could be under threat following a poor performance at Twickenham, while scrum-half Rhys Webb, hooker Ken Owens and lock Luke Charteris are all likely starters, with openside flanker Justin Tipuric in line for a recall if skipper Sam Warburton does not recover in time from concussion.

Replacement tighthead prop Tomas Francis, meanwhile, faces a disciplinary hearing after being cited for allegedly making contact with the eyes or eye area of England tighthead Dan Cole during Saturday's game.

"When the bench came on, there was certainly a change in the momentum of the game, and they made a huge impact," Howley added.

"I think we've got some decisions to make, and that is down to Warren to decide what changes are felt necessary for the weekend.

"I don't know what Warren is thinking at this moment in time. Over the next 24 hours, we will decide in terms of that selection."

The main area of Wales' in-depth analysis, though, will be their defence. It is normally among the best in world rugby but 25 tackles were missed at Twickenham, including a startling 19 during the first 40 minutes.

"We talk about attack being smart, clinical and accurate - executing under pressure," Howley said.

"Defence is very emotive. It's about speed into position, getting off the floor quicker than your opponent, not being overtaken when you are running back, getting off your line and making the tackle.

"Early on in the game, our line speed wasn't at its best, compared to where it has been in the championship and other games that we've played. He (Wales defence coach Shaun Edwards) is hugely disappointed."

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