After such a torrid result against a passionate and clinical Argentinean side on the weekend, the question about what Wales will learn from these Autumn Internationals is even more pressing.
Going into the series it looked set to being just the one question – can Wales find an able deputy for Adam Jones? Judging by Aaron Jarvis’ scrummaging display, as well as an excellent jackal in loose play, Wales’ fears of playing without the curly headed Jones might not be quite as bad as they thought. Jarvis was solid if unspectacular but he did the job of locking out the scrum. It will be interesting to see how he progresses as the series goes on.
Instead the question of what will Wales learn from these internationals is more linked to the direction of can they develop a plan B, and can they cope for an even longer period without head coach Warren Gatland. Going by the defeat to Argentina alone the answer to both those question is a no.
Let us look closer at the Welsh defeat at the weekend and the key reasons for this.
First up – selection. Whether or not is was simply a case of underestimating your opponents is difficult to judge, but to go into a game against such a strong forwards side as Argentina without a recognised lock is a huge gamble, and one that backfired badly on Howley. After losing lock Jones shortly before half time, there was no recognised replacement and it showed.
Secondly – motivation. The Welsh team took to the field, and whilst putting in a gritty defensive display (more so in the first half) they struggled to get any go forward at all. Neither their forwards or backs, with the exceptions of Faletau and Halpfenny, looked to have the motivation to run with the ball, to support play to in short actually create anything. They looked tired and overworked; exactly how Argentina were expected to look coming to this game on the back of a 13 month season and a hugely exerting debut into The Rugby Championship.
The lack of ability to create anything then leads us on the third point; tactics. For the last couple of seasons the Welsh backs, despite their obvious talent, have failed to truly shine. There has been little invention besides the crash ball through the middle, and when you consider the talents of the likes of North and Cuthbert going to waste, it beggars belief. The fact that the main tactic is reliant on having both Jamie Roberts and John Davies fit, which neither currently are, is a worry. Rob Howley has been the backs coach for a fair few seasons now, yet Wales’ back play is stagnating. This was only compounded by the lack of momentum provided by the forwards.
It remains to be seen whether the dispassionate display on the weekend was a one off. Indeed Mr Lewis and the like in the WRU will be praying it is, as if Team Wales stop performing then we could see the structures in Welsh rugby unravel at an alarming rate.
What Wales will learn from this series is whether or not Rob Howley is the man who should truly take them through this year and the Six Nations. They will learn just how influential Warren Gatland is solely due to his absence. Ultimately what Wales will learn is that despite having individual talents if they cannot perform as a team, and if tactically they remain so rigid in their approach to games as other countries develop their style of play, then they will lose.
This article can also be found here: http://www.rugbyfancast.com/2012/11/blogs/the-trouble-with-wales (please note there will be advertisements on this page)