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Wales became the No. 1-ranked test team for the first time after a 13-6 rebound win against England at home on Saturday, a month out from the Rugby World Cup.
Just six days after being thrashed by England 33-19 at Twickenham, Wales dominated the return match. They scored the only try to deservedly win the first half 10-0, and produced a typically strong defensive effort in Cardiff to hold out England in the second.
Wales became only the fourth team to reach No. 1 since the rankings began in 2003 and took over from New Zealand, which had held top spot since November 2009. The All Blacks were far more impressive hours earlier in their own 36-0 rebound win over Australia in Auckland, but Wales coach Warren Gatland was rapt that his players delivered the response he demanded after they were humbled last weekend.
Gatland was even more impressed that his patched-up side held together. Fullback Liam Williams was withdrawn with a tight hamstring just before kickoff, giving Leigh Halfpenny his first cap this year, and replacement flanker Aaron Shingler finished at lock and backup hooker Elliot Dee on the flank. They combined to ruin a last-gasp England lineout drive just four meters from the Wales tryline.
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“No one panicked, everyone did their job. To see those players comfortable handling that was pretty good,” Gatland said. “T
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