Such was the shock and, if I’m honest, downright disappointment of Wales’ thumping at the hands of Australia on Saturday, it’s actually taken me a few days to gather my thoughts on a dismal team performance.
I only actually caught the first half of the game because I had work in the evening, but I have yet to bring myself to watch the second half, or indeed the highlights. In the build up last week, I was initially worried that Australia would blow us away, but I became pretty confident having seen what I thought was, on paper, a decent team. It’s been quite some time, however, since I’ve seen such a sluggish, lacklustre performance from some of the biggest names in Welsh rugby.
Usual big-hitters like Jamie Roberts and George North had an atrocious and utterly forgettable day at the office. I wouldn’t have known either was on the field in the first half, were it not for a glance at the statistics for tackles missed. Dan Biggar’s yellow card for a ridiculous foul play compounded our defensive issues. There were mismatches right across the field as Wales were well and truly out-thought and out-fought in every element of the game of rugby union. It was painful to watch, especially since Australia are a team which I consider comparable to Wales in physicality, and one I felt Wales had the firepower to expose on a crisp autumn day in Cardiff.
Even the metronomic boot of Leigh Halfpenny faltered on his long awaited return to the international scene (although I must say his defensive effort was typically aggressive). He, along with Justin Tipuric and Ross Moriarty, did at least put in a decent shift.
We need a massive response this week against an Argentina side on the ascendency after thrashing Japan in their last outing. This could be a real arm-wrestle as Wales will surely want to make amends. I expect players like Roberts and North to put their hands up, to be bold, abrasive and creative. We could see the return of Sam Warburton, Jonathan Davies and Alun Wyn Jones, all of whom would, I hope, bring stability and leadership.
There have been injury call-ups to uncapped Tomos Williams and Keelan Giles this week, both of whom have shown real promise at regional level. I expect them to be involved in the Japan game, but I feel Argentina would be a step too far, too soon. At this point, Wales need to choose players on experience.
Here’s hoping Wales can turn around their fortunes this week, or risk slipping further down the world rankings.
Finally, a quick shout out to my mate Dai, a passionate England rugby fan who is very much looking forward to Wales v Argentina as well as, of course, England v South Africa. We’ll be in touch after Saturday’s game!