That Wales’ players celebrated wildly after Sam Davies put over an 80th minute drop goal to beat Japan said it all. Minutes later the realisation that they had scarcely deserved to beat a Japan side that leaked 54 points against Argentina two weeks before, was etched upon the Welsh players’ faces.
Wales have hit rock bottom.
Sam Warburton’s cliche ridden explanation of Japan’s strength and Wales training well in the week etc., was so far removed from reality as to be embarrassing.
So apart from the fact that Wales have become a poor side more likely to compete for the Wooden Spoon than the Grand Slam, what else did the 73,000 people who endured the 80 minutes at the Principality Stadium learn?
Robert Howley’s coaching team is not getting the best out of a group of players than not long ago were considered contenders for the Rugby World Cup.
That Howley cares is not in doubt, but the players looked like they were following an outdated script – a script that the opposition knows is coming line for line. The players on the pitch are Wales’ best. But the game has moved on and it seems the Welsh coaching team has not.
Many are past their prime
Too many Welsh players are living off reputations forged in the distant past. Sam Warburton burst onto the scene in 2011 guiding Wales to a cruel semi-final defeat against France. But Warburton looks a shadow of himself. Always a match or two from injury, he is some way from being that player who seemed to steal the opposition’s ball at will.
Meanwhile, the fact that most peoples’ overriding emotion when it came to Alex Cuthbert was one of feeling sorry for him, said it all. Jamie Roberts did his thing – up the middle etc. – but it has become so horribly predictable. I guess it always was but it was forgivable when Wales won. I could go on but you get the picture.
Reluctance for change
Why did it take 67 minutes for Howley to introduce Sam Davies into the fray? Davies has been the standout 10 in Wales this season but warranted 13 minutes on the pitch. If you are good enough, you are old enough. At least he saved Wales from total ignominy at the end with his smart drop goal.
Wales’ basic game falls apart on times but it is the lack of bite, aggression and pace that is the most alarming thing about this Welsh side. Too many times Wales took the ball in, only for the ball to pop out on the side of the Japanese. From this showing , and the two previous games against Australia and Japan, there are structural flaws in Wales’ game.
More of the same next week?
A win against the worst Springbok side in the last 50 years next week is an absolute must. Like Wales, it seems that the Springboks are unable to play a high tempo, offloading game suited to the modern era. Ponderous, structured kick-focussed rugby will be order of the day in Cardiff next week. It is likely to grim watching.
There are chinks of light in the gloom. Sam Davies aside, James King put himself about, Nicky Smith looks to be back while Liam Williams is the standout Welsh player of the series so far. Add Ross Moriarty, who was not playing today, to the mix and there is a young spine that could pull Wales from the mire.
On this showing put a few quid on Wales scooping the Wooden Spoon would be a wise bet. Wales’ first game in February is in Rome against Italy. Lose that and they have a tough line up to overcome including England at home.
Who will go to New Zealand in June?
Finally, there are likely to be very few Welsh Lions touring New Zealand in 2017 on recent showings. Ireland and England will rightly dominate, a far cry from Welsh-centric team that secured the Lions 2-1 win in Australia in 2013.