Wales stumbled past Japan in Cardiff, 33-30 thanks to a last minute drop goal courtesy of Sam Davies, but the performance was very unsatisfactory.
Howley and his men put on a display that most in the stadium would want to forget and hope not to see again soon. To call it a stumble is perhaps generous, with Wales playing little actual rugby after Dan Lydiate‘s well worked try. The usual stick it up the jumper and smash your way through was the approach adopted by the Welsh and Japan came around to it very swiftly.
The scrum was more than often comfortable, with a period where Japan couldn’t handle the power of the front eight, although the second half Japan were the equals at least. The breakdown was awfully protected by Wales and all too often lost possession off rucks.
Line-outs never really became a threat and the rolling maul was very carefully dealt with by the clever Japanese defending.
Our thoughts go out to Alun-Wyn Jones however, who played today, days after his father’s funeral and he put in an excellent shift, even creating Warburton’s try.
Too flat on running lines, kicking out of hand was always to often and poorly placed most of the times. The back five sat too deep to really get any sort of momentum for 50 minutes of the game and that showed in their lack of ability to really take any man on and their lack of chances taken.
Wales move on the play South Africa who hadn’t lost four tests in a year prior to 2016, they have now lost 7 after a loss to Italy. Wales MUST capitalize. Wales stumble against the Japanese tells us that they probably wont capitalize but capitulate as one Welsh fan put on Twitter.
Sam Warburton was a very relieved man in his post game interview, crediting Japan’s performance and so he should have been. Wales were lucky to get past Japan today and were saved by Davies’ quick thinking late on to slot the drop goal over. Japan honestly deserved to win today and if they had more clout up front early on then perhaps they would have done.
One thing that will be the case against the Springboks however will be that huge forward presence, but one that will have a decent set of backs behind it as well to pose a threat to the Welsh. Wales can’t afford a stumble against a struggling South Africa as they will take advantage, especially with world class forward like Eben Etzebeth in the side.
73,969 filled the Principality Stadium and any of those returning or those going to the game who watched from home today will want a massive response from Warburton and his men if they are to get anywhere near beating South Africa.
WHAT NEEDS TO CHANGE
The coaching staff. Simply put Howley has been in the job far too long already and the world of rugby has moved on, whilst Wales has not. McBryde is losing his reputation as a forwards coach as Wales often get equalled now even by sides like Japan. Sadly they will all be with us it seems until at least the World Cup , in Japan ironically, in 2019. If these constant awful performances continue however and losses start rolling in against the tougher sides, then expect crowds to sink to more like the previous 2016 Autumn Internationals of below 55,000. This takes money from the coffers of the Welsh Rugby Union and will hopefully make them think about whether they can afford to keep the current regime in control.
New names. There is plenty of talent up and coming who will be playing in the 2019 World Cup, but the one’s who are ready now are not even getting a look in. Sam Davies got next to no time in this game and saved Wales when he eventually came on. Uncapped Keelan Giles sat on the bench after a call up, what is the point in that?
Overall its a pretty sour taste in Wales right now on where they are at international level and hopefully the performance will be sorted out in time for the final international and that today was indeed just a Wales stumble, otherwise there could well be another loss on the cards for Howley and his men.