By Rhys Thomas
November 22 2012
This has to be as near to rock bottom as it can get for Wales, right? Before the autumn started most people expected the team to pick up two wins in the first half of the series. Now, the World Champions are coming to town, surely licking their lips at the prospect of a comfortable win against the Grand Slam champions.
New Zealand have had no trouble in their first two games, winning 51-22 and 42-10 against Scotland and Italy respectively. Those games were there to try out different players and combinations, ahead of the Welsh test. When they step out at the Millennium Stadium on Saturday – it will be their best XV (barring injuries, including Dan Carter who is a doubt at the time of writing).
I was astonished to see that the lacklustre Rhys Priestland is still at outside half. James Hook has been wowing the French crowds and media with his style of Rugby, whilst Priestland had been doing anything but. It seems sad to me that Gatland and co won’t admit to being wrong with their selection policy of late – Priestland’s confidence and attacking flair is shot to bits, and the place to regain it back isn’t against ‘The Blackness’. So, Welsh fans can look forward to another toothless, drifting attack! What is even worse is the injury to George North, who will be replaced by Liam Williams. North is one of the few Welshmen who could get into the New Zealand side, and his injury is a hammer blow to an already struggling team.
I hope that the Samoa game was a wakeup call. The players looked dozy and uninterested, whereas during the Six Nations they were itching to get the ball in their hands. Against the South Sea Islanders, individual players didn’t step up and fulfil their roles, for example in defensive patterns, and a try within the first minute showed that. The scrum was taken apart, although Gatland has attempted to remedy that by putting Paul James at loosehead prop instead of Toulon bench-warmer Gethin Jenkins.
I sincerely hope we see the ‘backlash’ that several players and coaches have been talking about. If they don’t play at a much higher intensity and fail to complete their basic tasks -individually and as units - then New Zealand will run riot.