Record defeat to New Zealand a grim prospect as Wales lack substance
WITH the regions in one hell of a holy mess, the national side were made to look a sick joke on Saturday by an average Argentina side.
It’s almost impossible to describe how awful Wales were, and worse could be in store with the All Blacks looming on the horizon.
If they play like that against New Zealand in a fortnight, they could be staring down the barrel of a record defeat.
Whatever Los Pumas’ limitations, they never lack passion, something seriously lacking in a Wales side who were borderline pathetic.
There are many uncomfortable questions that need answering, including Robert Howley’s ability as a head coach in Warren Gatland’s absence.
The preparation and selection were poor and the inability to register even one win against a mediocre Wallabies in three over the summer was put into sharp contrast this weekend.
The Australians were battered 33-6 in Paris by a French team who are hardly world beaters at the moment.
Even Samoa and Scotland have beaten Australia in their own back yard in recent years.
Wales’ pack had more reverse gears than an Italian tank on Saturday, bullied all over the park by captain Juan Martín Fernández Lobbe and his flinty warriors.
It was car-crash stuff for the home fans, who sat in silence for the most part at a Millennium Stadium which resembled more a morgue than its inflated reputation as a cauldron. At least they’ve taken down those awful posters at the ground which rallied players and fans alike to ‘Protect this House’.
Had those adverts stayed up, there would have been more hollow laughter at another gag in very bad taste.
Without the steel offered by the injured tighthead Adam Jones, the man who does prop up Welsh rugby, and indispensable back-rowers Dan Lydiate and Ryan Jones, the forwards look worryingly weak.
The old mantra that Wales are only about two injuries from disaster is sadly spot on. Wales simply do not have the strength in depth to compete on the world stage and they badly missed centre Jonathan Davies, arguably Wales’ finest player, during last season’s Grand Slam, with a groin injury.
The Scott Williams-Jamie Roberts axis simply didn’t work in a midfield without a hint of elegance.
The decision to omit a lock on the bench was also a mystery, Wales bringing on the ineffective back-rower Rob McCusker when Alun Wyn Jones left with an injured shoulder a minute before half-time.
The weekend again highlighted the regions’ inability to produce credible back-up players when the chips are down.
Welsh rugby resembles a Potemkin village, the hollow facade that the Russian minister is said to have once built in order to deceive Catherine the Great that everything in the empire’s garden was rosy.
With Grand Slams won in 2005, 2008 and 2012, it was easy to delude yourself that the national game – whatever the regions’ serious limitations in the Heineken Cup – was healthy, to turn a blind eye, that things were hunky- dory.
But the reality is those triumphs have only served to mask the fact that things are much murkier and darker, something that is becoming clearer and clearer by the day. Was there any consolation over the weekend?
Only that Ireland looked about as hopeless against South Africa and Scotland taking on New Zealand as Wales did in their match and that ain’t much to cling on to. Crisis? What crisis?