Great and good of Welsh rugby stir the pot with talk of wooden spoon

Mon, Feb 4, 2013, 00:00

Welsh rugby doesn’t do middle ground. They tend to lurch from extremes in form on the pitch and when the going gets tough there is always a legion of former legends poised to pile on the criticism.

Amid grave concerns about the state of the club and regional game, an eighth successive test defeat – including a record five in succession at home – has prompted a gnashing of teeth throughout the land of the Red Dragonhood.

With a wounded France waiting in Paris next Saturday, followed by treks to Murrayfield and the Stadio Olimpico, Wales could be heading to Rome seeking to avoid eclipsing the record losing run of 10 matches under Steve Hansen.

“Embarrassing, lacklustre – any word in that category could sum up Wales’ first-half performance yesterday,” was the verdict of Barry John in yesterday’s Wales on Sunday. “Yes, they were that bad. Wales produced an amazing recovery in the second half but if they hadn’t come with that urgency and pace the whole campaign would have collapsed on the spot.

“They had to be carefree at 30-3 but why they don’t that from the start is beyond me. Perhaps I was over-confident about my Six Nations predictions last week. I feared we could be in the second tier of the Championship this time and I wouldn’t rule out a wooden spoon.”

Writing in the Sunday Telegraph, JPR Williams echoed the views of Graham Price that players were being picked on reputation when observing: “I was bewildered at half-time. We were second best. I have to question what Gethin Jenkins is still doing in a Wales jersey when he has not been playing in France.”

There will be a clamour for change, with even captain Sam Warburton again under pressure given the probable return of Ryan Jones and the desire to accommodate Justin Tipuric. “We just have to pick ourselves up now, look forward to France and try to get a great win out there,” said their World Cup semi-final and Grand Slam winning captain.

“It’s tough having lost eight games on the bounce but there were times in the second half when we did exceptionally well. We must start well next week, and if we can, and then we play well for the majority of the game, we’ll have a great chance. The players are desperate to do well every time we play.”

With Warren Gatland a mere observer as Lions’ head coach, his assistant/interim head coach Rob Howley still awaits his first win and he bristled when asked if his players were buying into his methods, adding: “We were disappointed to lose another try in the first two minutes of the second half, but to come back from 30 points to three down to where we were... I think it is a silly question to ask about players buying in.”

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