ASSISTANT coach Robin McBryde has brushed aside fears of regional woes hindering Wales’ Six Nations campaign, insisting that the motivation to put right a painful autumn is focusing their minds.
Wales’ defence of their crown starts against Ireland at the Millennium Stadium a week on Saturday, an encounter that will take place amid a backdrop of grumbling about the state of the sport in the country.
Cardiff Blues were the only region to triumph in Europe last weekend and none of the six rounds of group action saw more than a solitary Welsh victory.
There will be no Welsh representation in the last eight of either the Heineken Cup or Amlin Challenge Cup while the talking about how to stop the Welsh player drain and to compete with the European big guns continues.
Things haven’t been much better on the international scene with Wales welcoming the Irish on the back of a 3-0 summer Test series loss in Australia and a demoralising autumn whitewash.
Forwards coach McBryde insists that sequence of woe is all that is concerning the squad, who met up for their first day in camp yesterday.
“We are starting on a fresh page and the regional form should not come into it,” insisted the former hooker. “We are all focused on Ireland and getting a positive start to the Six Nations.
“(Interim head coach) Rob Howley has made it very clear that we are in a run of seven without a win. We can’t be happy with that and need to make sure that every member of the squad, whether new or old, feels that hurt as much as we do as coaches.
“To want to put that right has to be at the forefront of their minds, we are not looking any further than the Irish game. That’s a big start and a big test. We have to take the hurt and the pain from Australia and the autumn and come out fighting and show we are better than that.”
McBryde denied that the regions’ shortcomings and the national side’s hideous run of form means they are unburdened by expectation as they head into the defence of their crown.
“In the Six Nations the weight of expectation is on everybody, especially in that first game,” he said.
“There is pressure and you have to get off to a flyer in the Six Nations because the first two games dictate the rest of the tournament.”
Wales are continuing to monitor injuries to hooker Richard Hibbard (shoulder), lock Ian Evans (knee) and lock/back row Ryan Jones, who saw a specialist yesterday after dislocating his thumb a fortnight ago.