Howley rues Wales' inability to execute under pressure in defeat

Wales boss Rob Howley applauded his players’ efforts, but was left to reflect ruefully on the closing five minutes as England fought back from the brink.

“It was an outstanding Test match,” Howley said. “The intensity and application of our players for 75 minutes was outstanding. We played with pace and accuracy, as did England. International games are won in the last 10 minutes, when decision-making comes under pressure.

“We defended heroically at times, but we just couldn’t get a foothold in the last 10 minutes, and when we did, we didn’t execute as well as we could. England know how to win, and we lost, but it was a fantastic performance. It’s a tough one, but you take that, you bottle it and we will use that in two weeks when we go to Murrayfield.

“In the final 10 minutes, we had to execute under pressure, and we didn’t. But that is Test match football, and you have to make sure when you are in that position next time, you are better for it. A lot of these players have bounced back before, and I have no doubt we will do it again.

“We will learn from the last 10 minutes, where we went wrong, and we will hopefully be better for the experience.”

Even though they lost the game, it was undoubtedly Wales’ best performance of the season, although a losing bonus point provided scant consolation.

“I thought we were okay with the ball in hand,” Howley added. “I though we asked questions, either side of the ruck, so we will continue to do that. I think we’ve got some world-class backs, and hopefully we will keep working hard on our game and improving.

“That is the challenge for the players, and I think the qualities of a team are when you bounce back. Some of these players have bounced back before, and I have no doubt that we will have a reaction because there is a lot of character in that dressing room.

“It wasn’t a pleasant one (dressing room) to be in after the game, but you have to bottle that feeling as a player and coach and try rectify that last 10 minutes where we went wrong.”

Wales flanker Sam Warburton, meanwhile, reported no ill-effects after taking a knock near the end of the game, while Howley confirmed that wing George North, who missed the England match due a leg injury, will be fit to face Scotland on February 25.

“It was pretty evident this morning that the haematoma hadn’t settled, which is pretty important,” Howley said. “In the concept of the week and how big a game this was, you want your best players playing these games, and George wanted to be given that opportunity.

“We gave him every opportunity, and this morning it was fairly obvious that we would be putting him at risk if he started the game, so hopefully we made the right decision. He will be fit for Murrayfield for selection.”