Ken Owens says Wales need to “keep building and improving” after a red-letter day saw them beat England and become world number one.
Wales’ 13-6 World Cup warm-up success in Cardiff meant they ended New Zealand’s unbroken 10-year reign as rugby union’s ranking leaders.
They also achieved it less than five weeks before the World Cup starts in Japan, with Wales having won 15 of their last 16 Tests.
Owens, though, joined Wales head coach Warren Gatland in keeping his feet firmly on the ground following such a landmark statistical feat.
“I would prefer to be there (number one) at the start of November (when the World Cup ends), but it is now just a table and something to talk about,” Wales hooker Owens said.
“We were a lot better this week,” he added, in reference to Wales’ 33-19 defeat to England at Twickenham last Sunday.
“We spoke about the need to start a lot better. The first 20 minutes last week cost us the game. We spoke about our line speed defensively and our accuracy in attack, and I think we delivered that.
“We dug in and got the job done. We delivered, which is a huge tick in the box for us.
“We have got to be on the money now. We’ve had probably our poor performance out of the system, that slow start people talk about, and we have got to keep building and improving. We can’t let that standard drop.”
Wales have two more preparation fixtures – home and away against Ireland – and a warm-weather training camp in Turkey before they leave for Japan next month.
And they have a solid foundation to build on after extending an unbeaten home record to 11 games which stretches back to November 2017.
“There were lots of pressure moments out there, especially towards the last five or 10 minutes,” Owens added.
“In fairness, the boys came up with some big plays. Dillon Lewis turned a maul over, which is a big strength of England’s.
“It (Turkey) is a good nine days to get away and get a little bit more training in away from everything.
“We can just concentrate on the rugby again and get our combinations working and get more time on the training field in full rugby situations. We want to get ready to peak for the two games against Ireland to come.”
Eddie Jones believes Pascal Gauzere should be shown a yellow card for allowing George North’s try in England‘s defeat by Wales on Saturday even though the French referee acted within the laws.
Gauzere let Dan Biggar take a quick tap penalty that led to North claiming the crucial score as Warren Gatland’s men avenged their defeat at Twickenham six days earlier through a 13-6 victory in Cardiff.
England were expecting Gauzere to wait for the sin-binned Anthony Watson to leave the pitch as punishment for a deliberate knock-on before allowing Wales to restart play.
However, there is no law requiring the referee to pause the game until the carded player is off the field.
When asked if Gauzere should have waited, England head coach Jones replied: “I think we all thought that was the law. So maybe the yellow card should have gone to the referee.
“It is what it is. We had to cope with whatever he decided was right. And if he wants a variation of the law, we’ve got to be good enough to cope with it.
“It’s not worth going into it because I don’t want that to be the headline of the game. It happened, we had to cope with it, didn’t cope with it, and they scored their winning try. So be it.”
Jones also resumed an attack on World Rugby that began incoherently at Twickenham last Sunday when he turned on referee Mathieu Raynal, then exonerated him, before criticising a red card for dangerous play shown to New Zealand 24 hours earlier.
The Australian was part of a panel that in 2016 advised World Rugby what measures should be taken as part of a zero-tolerance policy to reckless and accidental head contact.
“You’re not allowed to comment on referees. World Rugby are like Big Brother, they have facial recognition everywhere, you say one word and you’re in trouble,” he said.
England were ambushed at a time when Ben Youngs was standing on the sideline waiting to replace Willi Heinz, who had already departed for a head injury assessment, reducing them to 13 men.
They were caught unaware as they gathered in a huddle in expectation that Watson must first leave the pitch, but captain George Ford at least recognised they were at fault.
“We were trying to discuss what to do with the next 10 minutes with the yellow card with Anthony off the field. It’s something we have to anticipate better,” Ford said.
“I’m not too sure what was going on, on the sidelines, but it’s a good reminder for us as it’s seven points and ultimately that was the difference between the teams. We need to be on our toes a bit better.”
The theme of never losing eyes on the opposition was taken up by Youngs.
“It’s happened here and I dare say something like that will not happen again. It’s one of those things,” the Lions scrum-half said.
“There’s nothing as players that you can do about that except take the one lesson which is don’t switch off when there’s a penalty.
“As long as it’s ironed out and doesn’t happen in the future, I’m sure it will be fine.”
Ahead of the Rugby World Cup which gets underway on September 20, here’s a full list of fixtures and kick off times for the tournament.
Who do you think will win?
FRIDAY SEPTEMBER 20
Match 1: Japan vs Russia (Pool A), Tokyo Stadium, 2:45pm GST
SATURDAY SEPTEMBER 21
Match 2: Australia vs Fiji (Pool D), Sapporo Dome, 8:45am GST
Match 3: France vs Argentina (Pool C), Tokyo Stadium, 11:15am GST
Match 4: New Zealand vs South Africa (Pool B), International Stadium Yokohama, 1:45pm GST
SUNDAY SEPTEMBER 22
Match 5: Italy vs Namibia (Pool B), Hanazono Rugby Stadium, 9:15am GST
Match 6: Ireland vs Scotland (Pool A), International Stadium Yokohama, 11:45am GST
Match 7: England vs Tonga (Pool C), Sapporo Dome, 2:15pm GST
MONDAY SEPTEMBER 23
Match 8: Wales vs Georgia (Pool D), City of Toyota Stadium, 2:15pm GST
TUESDAY SEPTEMBER 24
Match 9: Russia vs Samoa (Pool A), Kumagaya Rugby Stadium, 2:15pm
WEDNESDAY SEPTEMBER 25
Match 10: Fiji vs Uruguay (Pool D), Kamaishi Recovery Memorial Stadium, 9:15am GST
THURSDAY SEPTEMBER 26
Match 11: Italy vs Canada (Pool B), Fukuoka Hakatanomori Stadium, 11:45am GST
Match 12: England vs USA (Pool C), Kobe Misaki Stadium, 2:45pm GST
SATURDAY SEPTEMBER 28
Match 13: Argentina vs Tonga (Pool C), Hanazono Rugby Stadium, 8:45am GST
Match 14: Japan vs Ireland (Pool A), Shizuoka Stadium Ecopa, 11:15am GST
Match 15: South Africa vs Namibia (Pool B), City of Toyota Stadium, 1:45pm GST
SUNDAY SEPTEMBER 29
Match 16: Georgia vs Uruguay (Pool D), Kumagaya Rugby Stadium, 9:15am GST
Match 17: Australia vs Wales (Pool D), Tokyo Stadium, 11:45am GST
MONDAY SEPTEMBER 30
Match 18: Scotland vs Samoa (Pool A), Kobe Misaki Stadium, 2:15pm GST
WEDNESDAY OCTOBER 2
Match 19: France vs USA (Pool C), Fukuoka Hakatanomori Stadium, 11:45am GST
Match 20: New Zealand vs Canada (Pool B), Oita Stadium, 2:15pm GST
THURSDAY OCTOBER 3
Match 21: Georgia vs Fiji (Pool D), Hanazono Rugby Stadium, 9:15am GST
Match 22: Ireland vs Russia (Pool A), Kobe Misaki Stadium, 2:15pm
FRIDAY OCTOBER 4
Match 23: South Africa vs Italy (Pool B), Shizuoka Stadium Ecopa, 1:45pm GST
SATURDAY OCTOBER 5
Match 24: Australia vs Uruguay (Pool D), Oita Stadium, 9:15am GST
Match 25: England vs Argentina (Pool C), Tokyo Stadium, 12pm GST
Match 26: Japan vs Samoa (Pool A), City of Toyota Stadium, 2:30pm GST
SUNDAY OCTOBER 6
Match 27: New Zealand vs Namibia (Pool B), Tokyo Stadium, 8:45am GST
Match 28: France vs Tonga (Pool C), Kumamoto Stadium, 11:45am GST
TUESDAY OCTOBER 8
Match 29: South Africa vs Canada (Pool B), Koba Misaki Stadium, 2:15pm GST
WEDNESDAY OCTOBER 9
Match 30: Argentina vs USA (Pool C), Kumagaya Rugby Stadium, 8:45am GST
Match 31: Scotland vs Russia (Pool A), Shizuoka Stadium Ecopa, 11:15am GST
Match 32: Wales vs Fiji (Pool D), Oita Stadium; Wednesday 9 October, 1:45pm GST
FRIDAY OCTOBER 11
Match 33: Australia vs Georgia (Pool D), Shizuoka Stadium Ecopa, 2:15pm GST
SATURDAY OCTOBER 12
Match 34: New Zealand vs Italy (Pool B), City of Toyota Stadium, 8:45am GST
Match 35: England vs France (Pool C), International Stadium Yokohama, 12:15pm GST
Match 36: Ireland vs Samoa (Pool A), Fukuoka Hakatanomori Stadium, 2:45pm GST
SUNDAY OCTOBER 13
Match 37: Namibia vs Canada (Pool B), Kamaishi Recovery Memorial Stadium, 7:15am GST
Match 38: USA vs Tonga (Pool C), Hanazono Rugby Stadium, 9:45am GST
Match 39: Wales vs Uruguay (Pool D), Kumamoto Stadium, 12:15pm GST
Match 40: Japan vs Scotland (Pool A), International Stadium Yokohama, 2:45pm GST
SATURDAY OCTOBER 19
Match 41: Winner Pool C vs Runner-Up Pool D, Oita Stadium, 11:15am GST
Match 42: Winner Pool B vs Runner-Up Pool A, Tokyo Stadium, 2:15pm GST
SUNDAY OCTOBER 20
Match 43: Winner Pool D vs Runner-Up Pool C, Oita Stadium, 11:15am GST
Match 44: Winner Pool A vs Runner-Up Pool B, Tokyo Stadium, 2:15pm GST
SATURDAY OCTOBER 26
Match 45: Winner Quarter-Final 1 vs Winner Quarter-Final 2, International Stadium Yokohama, 12pm GST
SUNDAY OCTOBER 27
Match 46: Winner Quarter-Final 3 vs Winner Quarter-Final 4, International Stadium Yokohama, 1pm GST
THIRD PLACE PLAY-OFF
FRIDAY NOVEMBER 1
Match 47: Loser Semi-Final 1 vs Loser Semi-Final 2, Tokyo Stadium, 1pm GST
SATURDAY NOVEMBER 2
Match 48: Winner Semi-Final 1 vs Winner Semi-final 2, International Stadium Yokohama, 1pm GST