Wales still have work to do as Argentina clash looms

Australia will face tougher Tests as they run in five tries to beat Welsh comfortably

Bernard Foley scores   against Wales in Cardiff: “I hope we are setting the platform for future success.” Photograph:  David Rogers/Getty Images

Bernard Foley scores against Wales in Cardiff: “I hope we are setting the platform for future success.” Photograph: David Rogers/Getty Images

 

After their summer whitewash by New Zealand, Wales identified the need to work on the athleticism and dexterity of their tight five. They involved their four regions to raise the general skill level of the national squad, but a 12th successive reverse to Australia and their second heaviest home defeat to the Wallabies showed they remain more comfortable manhandling than ball-handling.

Wales used nine tight-five forwards on Saturday who carried the ball between them for a total of eight metres compared to their opponents’ 76 metres. They have won three of their last 12 internationals and in their most difficult period for nine years, they are having to make do without head coach Warren Gatland who is on sabbatical with the Lions.

They were also without a core of experienced players, including centre Jonathan Davies who was a late withdrawal with a hamstring injury. They badly missed Sam Warburton at the breakdown where the Wallabies were able to quickly recycle possession in a one-sided first half.

Outhalf Sam Davies made a difference when he came on for his debut 16 minutes from the end – the game long lost – attacking the line and putting support players into space. Australia had until then dealt so comfortably with Wales’s direct running and high kicking that centre Jamie Roberts, for years his side’s most effective carrier, had no influence on events.

Outdated weaponry

Rob HowleyCardiff

They are fighting battles with outdated weaponry, so he will make changes for the Pumas, not least because Warburton is available again after playing 80 minutes for Cardiff Blues on Saturday and the scrum-half Rhys Webb suffered ankle ligament damage, but he has to consider more fundamental moves, especially behind.

Liam Williams’s thrust was missed at full-back where Leigh Halfpenny, who is feeling his way back after a knee injury, does not offer the same counterattacking threat; Scott Williams is a creative alternative to Roberts at inside-centre, Hallam Amos is a more alert wing than Alex Cuthbert and at ouhalf Dan Biggar, who is reluctant to attack the line, preferring to stand deeper and either kick or pass to a runner who has to take contact, is more suited to Wales’s old style of play.

Australia knew how to beat Wales, matching them physically and moving the ball with alacrity turning the home side’s big wings. And while they will have more demanding afternoons on their five-Test tour, fatigue looks their biggest threat.

“We have had to put up with a lot of external noise this year but we have shown resilience and character,” said Bernard Foley. “I hope we are setting the platform for future success.”

Guardian Service

Wales: Halfpenny; North (Amos, 60), S Williams, Roberts, Cuthbert; Biggar (S Davies, 63), Webb (G Davies, 64); Jenkins (capt; Smith, 58), Owens (Baldwin, 58), Lee (Francis, 58), B Davies (Hill, 62), Charteris, Lydiate (King, 68), Tipuric, Moriarty.

Australia: Folau; Haylett-Petty, Kuridrani, Hodge, Speight (Naivalu, 77); Foley (Cooper, 77), Phipps (Frisby, 66); Sio (Slipper, 67), Moore (Latu, 77), Kepu (Ala’alatoa, 62), Arnold (Simmons, 62), Coleman, Pocock (Fardy, ht), Hooper, Timani.

Referee: C Joubert (South Africa).

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