Tag Archives: halfpenny

London Welsh coach Lyn Jones backs Welsh rugby to rise again

Welsh rugby will rise again! Former Lion Jones lifted by Cuthbert's loyalty

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UPDATED:

22:00 GMT, 25 December 2012

When two blood-and-thunder Welsh derbies take place today in front of big festive crowds in Cardiff and Swansea, it will present a vibrant image to the rugby world. In reality, though, the game in the Principality is on a knife-edge.

There will barely be an empty seat at the Arms Park and the Liberty Stadium as the Blues and Dragons square up first, followed by the Ospreys and Scarlets.

They come on the back of a rare outbreak of positive news, with the Ospreys’ glorious Heineken Cup win over Toulouse preceding an announcement from the Blues that Alex Cuthbert had agreed a new three-year contract.

Trend setter: Alex Cuthbert went against the grain when he committed to Cardiff Blues rather than follow the money in France, where there is no salary cap

Trend setter: Alex Cuthbert went against the grain when he committed to Cardiff Blues rather than follow the money in France, where there is no salary cap

The Grand Slam-winning wing’s
decision to go against the grain by staying at home may be just the
boost that the regions were crying out for.

With Jamie Roberts and Dan Lydiate
having already agreed to join the exodus to France, Cuthbert’s decision
to turn his back on the riches on offer in the Top 14 was seized upon
as cause for optimism in bleak times.

And Blues chairman Peter Thomas was
upbeat about the chances of three more marquee players signing new
contracts next year — Wales captain Sam Warburton, fullback Leigh
Halfpenny and lock Bradley Davies.

But the bigger picture provides cause
for alarm. While the Scarlets lie second in the RaboDirect Pro12
league, there is every chance that the Heineken Cup quarter-finals will
again go ahead without a Welsh team.

WRU chief executive Roger Lewis
strongly hinted that the four regions may not all survive in their
current form, with at least one in danger of being re-cast as a
development team, with central funding heavily reduced as a result.

Hopeful: Cardiff want to get the likes of Sam Warburton to follow Cuthbert

Hopeful: Cardiff want to get the likes of Sam Warburton to follow Cuthbert

One prominent Welsh rugby figure told
Sportsmail that drastic action was needed and that the future formula
should include two ‘primary’ regions and one development region, with
one removed altogether. There is a growing realisation that something
has to give.

Bigger picture: Lyn Jones is concerned by the lack of depth at most levels in the region

Bigger picture: Lyn Jones is concerned by the lack of depth at most levels in the region

London Welsh head coach, Lyn Jones,
said: ‘Three regions is enough. At this stage, they haven’t said which
region will be downgraded or axed, so we’ll just have to wait and see
what happens.’

In a time of economic struggle and a
3.5million salary cap, Jones believes that finances are a major factor
in the difficulties experienced by the regions, exacerbated by the
growing input of the WRU.

‘The game in Wales needs new
investors to give it a boost, but people won’t get involved if they feel
that their hands are tied. Increased funding from the governing body
has frightened people away.’

However, Jones has no worries about the production of players.

‘Compared to England, far more
players are being produced per capita in Wales. They have to keep
producing young players in order to survive and they have to keep
looking after their treasures.’

Wasps’ former Scarlets, Wales and
Lions fly-half Stephen Jones feels that Cuthbert’s decision to stay with
the Blues may serve as a watershed moment for the regions as a whole,
when it comes to the retention of their stars.

Ready for the fight: Ospreys went into Christmas in good spirits after their hugely impressive win over Toulouse at Liberty Stadium on December 15

Ready for the fight: Ospreys went into Christmas in good spirits after their hugely impressive win over Toulouse at Liberty Stadium on December 15

‘He is the first one to break the
trend and that suggests that the Blues sold a vision to him,’ he said.
‘Let’s hope that now one of the big names has decided to stay in Wales,
more will follow his lead.’

With the prospect of one region being
demoted to development status, the Dragons are surely most vulnerable,
lying 11th of 12 in the Pro12 league and competing in the Amlin
Challenge Cup this season.

Stephen Jones added: ‘It’s tough for
the Dragons, losing someone like Luke Charteris, who was a leader for
them, was a real blow and Dan (Lydiate) now.’

But he believes the other regions
have the ability to keep filling voids left by high-profile departures,
adding: ‘The key is the production line.

'If the regions can keep enough strong
role models in their squads to give guidance and direction to the
youngsters, then you have a healthy system.’

Rhys Priestland out for season with achilles injury

Heartbreak for Priestland as Wales playmaker is ruled out of Six Nations and Lions tour with snapped achilles

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UPDATED:

15:55 GMT, 11 December 2012

Wales and Scarlets fly-half Rhys Priestland has suffered a devastating injury blow that will rule him out for the rest of this season.

Priestland, 25, will miss the entire RBS 6 Nations Championship after snapping his achilles tendon during the Scarlets’ Heineken Cup clash against Exeter three days ago.

Priestland, who has 22 caps, also looks set to miss out on the British and Lions’ tour of Australia next summer in the latest injury setback for Wales as they prepare to launch their Six Nations title defence.

Crocked: Priestland is treated before being stretchered off at Parc y Scarlets on Saturday

Crocked: Priestland is treated before being stretchered off at Parc y Scarlets on Saturday

Crocked: Priestland is treated before being stretchered off at Parc y Scarlets on Saturday

Scarlets head coach Simon Easterby revealed the extent of Priestland’s injury at a press conference on Tuesday morning.

Wales’ recent autumn Test campaign was riddled by injuries as they lost four successive games against Argentina, Samoa, New Zealand and Australia.

And Rob Howley, in interim coaching charge for the Six Nations campaign while Wales head coach Warren Gatland concentrates full-time on heading up Lions tour preparations, has been dealt another major setback with news of Priestland’s injury.

Prop Aaron Jarvis is already out of the Six Nations campaign, while lock Alun-Wyn Jones and flanker Dan Lydiate are set to play only limited parts, at best, while they continue their respective recoveries from shoulder and ankle trouble.

Out of form: Priestland had been struggling as Wales lost seven in a row this year

Out of form: Priestland had been struggling as Wales lost seven in a row this year

Full-back Leigh Halfpenny and centre Jamie Roberts, meanwhile, are battling for full fitness ahead of the tournament, which Wales start against Ireland in Cardiff on February 2, while wing George North (hip injury) has not played since the Samoa game almost four weeks ago.

Priestland was a driving force behind Wales’ outstanding push to reach the World Cup semi-finals in New Zealand last year, form which he carried over into last season’s Six Nations when Wales were crowned Grand Slam champions.

Although the latter half of 2012 has seen him struggle to reproduce that form, he remained a key member of the Wales team, starting three of the autumn games and going on as a substitute against Samoa.

With Priestland sidelined, Howley would appear to face a choice between Perpignan’s James Hook and Ospreys No 10 Dan Biggar for the Six Nations campaign.

Happy memories: Priestland helped Wales to Grand Slam success earlier this year

Happy memories: Priestland helped Wales to Grand Slam success earlier this year

And there was every chance that Priestland would have made the Lions tour, a dream that now appears to have been cruelly shattered.

Priestland’s injury is to his left Achilles, with the Scarlets confirming that he underwent surgery on Tuesday morning.

Easterby said: 'It’s a big blow for Rhys and for our region to lose a player of his quality and influence in our team.

'He was coming through well in the last couple of (Wales) games of the autumn, put in a strong performance against Australia and was making a real impact on our game against Exeter, so it is very difficult for him to take.

The contenders: Either James Hook (left) or Dan Biggar (right) are likely to replace Priestland

The contenders: Either James Hook (left) or Dan Biggar (right) are likely to replace Priestland

The contenders: Either James Hook (left) or Dan Biggar (right) are likely to replace Priestland

'But he will get plenty of support from here throughout the injury period.'

Scarlets medical chief Andy Walker added: 'The surgery was undertaken this morning at the Vale Hospital and has gone very well.

'It’s a difficult injury, but we have been fortunate to have had the injury assessed and repaired surgically so promptly, and by a very experienced ankle and foot specialist.

'Rhys’ surgery was performed by a new keyhole surgery technique which is non-invasive and will aid his recovery and allow him to get into rehab with our medical team at a quicker stage.

'The anticipated time off the field is around six months, but it all depends on the individual and how his rehab goes in the interim.'

Cardiff 24 Montpellier 35: Blues out of Heineken Cup

Cardiff 24 Montpellier 35: European dream over for Blues as Williams sees red

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UPDATED:

15:09 GMT, 9 December 2012

Fourteen-man Cardiff had their Heineken Cup aspirations ended as they fell to a third straight Pool Six defeat at the hands of Montpellier.

Teenage fly-half Rhys Patchell slotted seven penalties and a drop goal for the home side, who had scrum-half Lloyd Williams sent off after 25 minutes for a tip tackle on opposite number Benoit Paillaugue.

Pierre Berard, Mamuka Gorgodze and Timoci Nagusa all crossed for Montpellier, with the classy Paillaugue kicking 20 points.

Godzilla: Mamuka Gorgodze goes over for Montpellier

Godzilla: Mamuka Gorgodze goes over for Montpellier

The Blues' defeat adds to the gloom that has enveloped Welsh rugby, with the regions managing a collective one win from nine Heineken Cup matches to go with the national side's run of seven straight defeats.

The injury-ravaged Blues, without Sam Warburton, Leigh Halfpenny, Jamie Roberts, Bradley Davies and a host of others, did make a good fist of the opening quarter against a Montpellier side resting several of their first-choice names.

Patchell had the hosts on the board inside four minutes with a penalty and fell just short with a long-distance effort just seconds earlier.

But there were already early warning signs for the Cardiff scrum, an Achilles heel throughout the season.

An emphatic drive from the Montpellier pack allowed Paillaugue to slot a monster 50-metre penalty, and another strong shove gave the scrum-half his second three-pointer after Patchell had briefly put the hosts back ahead.

Patchell, showing a good degree of composure for one so young, replied with another penalty to make it 9-6 at the end of a scrappy opening quarter lacking in creativity.

No way through: Alex Cuthbert is halted by Pierre Barard

No way through: Alex Cuthbert is halted by Pierre Barard

But the Blues' hopes were dealt a major blow when Wales international Williams was dismissed.

The home crowd howled their derision at referee John Lacey, but the official was left with little choice after Williams lifted opposite number Paillaugue and dropped him on to the back of his neck after the ball had squirted out of a Blues scrum.

Paillaugue dusted himself down to level the scores from the resulting penalty, only for Patchell to again respond, this time with a well-taken drop goal.

But the home side's numerical disadvantage soon told as Montpellier built patiently through the phases to work an overlap on the left for wing Berard to cross, with the reliable boot of Paillaugue adding the conversion from the touchline.

Patchell kept Cardiff in it with yet another penalty, but when Dafydd Hewitt came in at the side of the ruck Paillaugue struck to leave the visitors 19-15 to the good at the break.

Try time: Timoci Nagusa scores Montpellier's third and final try

Try time: Timoci Nagusa scores Montpellier's third and final try

The Blues turned round with a strong wind behind them and Patchell used it to bring them within a point with a huge three-pointer from almost his own 10-yard line.

Montpellier should have made the game safe 15 minutes into the second half when Yoan Audrin picked off Patchell's pass.

The young fly-half did brilliantly to haul the winger down, but when the ball was recycled the visitors had a huge overlap, only for Gorgodze's final pass to Berard to be ruled forward.

Paillaugue did at least re-establish the four-point lead with his latest penalty, and the French side's second try followed with 14 minutes to go.

Fly-half Santiago Fernandez gathered in Paillaugue's kick to take Montpellier deep into Cardiff territory. Desperate scrambling defence kept out Berard, but Gorgodze stretched out to dot down through the ruck.

The hosts battled gamely and Patchell quickly slotted another two penalties to get the Blues back to within three points.

But Paillaugue steadied any French nerves before replacement wing Nagusa sealed the win by finishing smartly in the corner.

Sam Warburton and Wales must be firing from the start to beat Australia

Wounded Wales are on the ropes but they must be firing from the off to beat Wallabies

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UPDATED:

00:04 GMT, 1 December 2012

As the old saying goes: if at first you don't succeed, try having a sixth crack at the Wallabies in a year and see if that helps.

For Wales, the curse of the Grand Slam continues. They have stumbled to six successive defeats since then and this is their last chance of a victory or it will be a bleak midwinter.

They were supposed to be the star candidates for the crucial fourth place in the IRB rankings ahead of Monday's World Cup draw, instead they could slip down to ninth and face New Zealand and England in their World Cup pool if the rugby gods have a sense of humour.

Time to shine: Sam Warburton was in action in Friday's training session

Time to shine: Sam Warburton was in action in Friday's training session

WALES V AUSTRALIA

Wales: Halfpenny; Cuthbert, Davies, Roberts, L Williams; Priestland, Phillips; Jenkins, Rees, Andrews, Reed, Charteris, Shingler, Faletau, Warburton (capt).
Subs: Owens, Bevington, Lee, Jones, Tipuric, Knoyle, Biggar, S Williams.

Australia: Barnes; Cummins, Ashley- Cooper, Tapuai, Mitchell; Beale, Phipps; Robinson, Polota Nau, Alexander, Douglas, Sharpe (capt), Higginbotham, Palu, Pocock.
Subs: Moore, Slipper, Kepu, Dennis, Hooper, McKibbin, Harris, Iaone.

Referee: Wayne Barnes (England). Kick-off: 2.30pm, Millennium Stadium.

TV: Live on BBC1 from 2pm.

Their squad have been ravaged by injury and this team are being held together by bandages. Jamie Roberts, who was sorely missed on the three-Test tour Down Under in the summer, will have to wear a protective pad on his hip bone just to take the field.

The bruising was so bad after the All Blacks game he spent most of his week in ice and could start running only on Thursday.

Admittedly, these two Test teams have become tediously familiar foes over the past 13 months, but this match has taken on new significance. Lose and Wales will begin the defence of their Six Nations title without a victory since March.

The chronic Welsh problem of starting slowly and playing a game of desperate catch-up must be remedied with an explosion out of the blocks that puts the Wallabies on the back foot.

Australia are playing their 16th Test in 12 months, while Wales are playing their 24th in 16, so if this was a boxing match it would be two heavyweights with burning lungs and bleeding noses going toe-to-toe in the last round.

Land an early blow and it should make the difference. Wales must also cut out the stupid mistakes. A botched lineout call scuppered their first attack against the All Blacks and, while Wales made six line breaks, they failed to score from a single one.

Walking wounded: Wales have a depleted squad for Australia's visit

Walking wounded: Wales have a depleted squad for Australia's visit

Thinking cap on: Warren Gatland is hoping to record a win to salvage the series

Thinking cap on: Warren Gatland is hoping to record a win to salvage the series

The All Blacks made three line breaks and scored three times. Wales head coach Warren Gatland, taking charge of his final game before committing full-time to the Lions, has spoken all year about the 'learning curve' when you face the Southern Hemisphere sides.

But at some point that curve has to flatten out and Wales have to put those lessons into practice. With such a jam-packed international schedule they have had enough chances.

The summer was a case in point. They left Cardiff hoping to win the series, left Brisbane hoping for a solitary win and left Sydney with heads hanging after a hat-trick of defeats.

Openside flanker David Pocock got the best of Sam Warburton in June, but the Welsh skipper was recharged and back to his charging best against New Zealand.

Return: David Pocock will return to the fray after missing the England victory

Return: David Pocock will return to the fray after missing the England victory

That made a huge difference to his team. The lineout battle between veteran Nathan Sharpe – captain in his 116th and final Test – and lock Luke Charteris will be a defining fight when clean possession off the set piece is key.

Earlier this week, Australia head coach Robbie Deans said 'cornered beasts are the most dangerous'.

He was talking about the Wallabies. It may just turn out he was talking about the wrong team.

Crunch time: Liam Williams in action on Friday

Crunch time: Liam Williams in action on Friday

Saturday debate: Owen Farrell surprise candidate for Player of the Year

Saturday debate: Farrell was a surprise inclusion on shortlist for Player of the Year… who would you have picked

PUBLISHED:

22:52 GMT, 30 November 2012

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UPDATED:

00:04 GMT, 1 December 2012

After Owen Farrell's shock candidacy for the IRB Player of the Year award, we ask a panel of rugby experts who they would choose as their winner for the prestigious award.

ROB WILDMAN Daily Mail rugby reporter
Australia captain Nathan Sharpe: He's postponed retirement to lead the Wallabies in an adverse year hit by injuries to key men like Will Genia and David Pocock.

Sharpe has thrived on the responsibility and guided the Wallabies to a draw against the All Blacks and their satisfying recent win over England at Twickenham.

Surprised Owen Farrell is a shock candidate for Player of the Year

Surprised Owen Farrell is a shock candidate for Player of the Year

STEVE HANSEN All Blacks coach
New Zealand centre Conrad Smith: He is Mr Consistent and not only does a lot of work but it's always tidy work, always in the right place at the right time. Sometimes players like that are overlooked.

JERRY GUSCOTT Ex-England centre, now BBC pundit All Blacks No 8
Kieran Read: the best NZ forward, does everything you want of a back row. Well worth watching today.

LUKE BENEDICT Daily Mail rugby reporter
Wales full back Leigh Halfpenny: Has the same commitment to training as his boyhood idol Jonny Wilkinson and is as metronomic with the boot.

Ever present for Wales during the highs and lows of 2012 – his peerless kicking was essential to their Grand Slam.

His favourite expression is to 'own the skies' and he can jump far higher than his 5ft 10in frame should allow. A truly natural footballer.

Could be: Sportsmail's Luke Benedict believes Wales fullback Leigh Halfpenny should have taken the prize

Could be: Sportsmail's Luke Benedict believes Wales fullback Leigh Halfpenny should have taken the prize

CONOR O'SHEA Harlequins director of rugby
Ireland flanker Sean O'Brien (right): How about the Leinster star He has been a consistent force for his club in their European Cup success and has also become one of Ireland's best.

He's a terrifically competitive customer, though injury has ruled him out of recent autumn games.

JEFF PROBYN Ex-England prop, talkSPORT pundit
Argentina powerhouse Juan Martin Fernandez Lobbe: Fly halves and captains are always getting this award.

Let's go for a forward. Nobody has helped Argentina get into the Rugby Championship more than this back row. His workrate and non-stop style have been brilliant to watch and he has kept a losing team buoyant.

Wales team to play Australia at Millennium Stadium

Gatland shuffles pack as Wales look to make it lucky No 7 against Wallabies

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UPDATED:

13:20 GMT, 29 November 2012

A wounded Wales team will face Australia with a reshuffled pack for the final clash of their autumn series.

They have made four changes to the side that were beaten convincingly by New Zealand last weekend. But with fourteen first-team players unavailable through either injury or absence, head coach Warren Gatland had his hand tied when it came to make big changes, despite his side falling to their sixth successive defeat against the All Blacks.

George North has failed to shrug off a hip injury picked up in training last week, and Bradley Davies is still suffering from the effects of severe concussion after he was struck off the ball by All Black Andrew Hore in the second minute on Saturday.

Well beaten: Wales have lost six in a row

Well beaten: Wales have lost six in a row

In the front row Blues prop Scott Andrews is handed his second Wales start and he is joined by former Blues colleague and 93-times capped veteran prop Gethin Jenkins, who has been granted permission to play by his French club Toulon.

Elsewhere Ospreys lock Ian Evans completes his return from injury (knee) to replace Bradley Davies and Scarlets flanker Aaron Shingler replaces another Osprey, Ryan Jones, in the back row – with Jones retained on the bench.

The same backline which started against New Zealand last time out is selected, with Ospreys fly-half Dan Biggar coming in for another player returning to his club, Perpignan’s James Hook, in one change to the backs cover provided by the bench.

Starting role: Jenkins (left) has been given permission by Toulon to play

Starting role: Jenkins (left) has been given permission by Toulon to play

Wales team to play Australia on Saturday:

Leigh Halfpenny; Alex Cuthbert, Jonathan Davies, Jamie Roberts,
Liam Williams; Rhys Priestland, Mike Phillips; Gethin Jenkins, Matthew
Rees, Scott Andrews; Ian Evans, Luke Charteris; Aaron Shingler, Sam
Warburton (captain), Toby Faletau.

REPLACEMENTS: Ken Owens, Ryan Bevington, Samson Lee, Ryan Jones, Justin Tipuric, Tavis Knoyle, Dan Biggar, Scott Williams.

'We need to pick up again where we left off in the second half last week,' said Gatland. 'We managed to retain 73 per cent possession after the break against the All Blacks and win the territory battle, and we need to put Australia under similar pressure from the outset.

'We have played them regularly over the last couple of years and have come close to winning on a number of occasions, but have not quite been able to get ourselves over the chalk of the finish line.

'Both sides have had injuries to cope with, but there is every reason for optimism. The Millennium Stadium crowd will be in full voice again, they were outstanding last week, and we are aiming to reach the end of a tough series on Saturday and finish off on a high.'

Wales team to play New Zealand: Sam Warburton returns

Warburton back in favour as returning Gatland rings the changes for New Zealand clash

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UPDATED:

13:28 GMT, 20 November 2012

Warren Gatland has made five changes to the Wales team for Saturday's Millennium Stadium clash against world champions New Zealand.

Gatland is back in charge after working on preparatory business ahead of leading next summer's British and Irish Lions tour to Australia.

In his absence, Wales lost their opening autumn Tests against Argentina and Samoa, dropping to eighth place in the International Rugby Board world rankings as a result.

Starting role: Warburton (centre) had been dropped for the loss to Samoa

Starting role: Warburton (centre) had been dropped for the loss to Samoa

Switches from the 26-19 Samoa loss last Friday night see starts for centre Jonathan Davies, fly-half Rhys Priestland, hooker Matthew Rees, lock Luke Charteris and skipper Sam Warburton.

Davies has recovered from a groin problem to make his first appearance of the autumn series, replacing Ashley Beck, while Priestland takes over from Dan Biggar, who was not considered because of a shoulder injury.

Former Wales captain Rees, meanwhile, returns to the front-row, where he will pack down alongside Paul James and Aaron Jarvis, with Charteris in for Ian Evans, who has taken only a limited part in training due to knee trouble, and skipper Warburton replacing Justin Tipuric.

Wales have not beaten New Zealand since 1953, losing 24 successive games against them, while defeat this weekend would make it six reversals in a row against all opponents, something they have not experienced since 2002-03.

Wales team to play New Zealand on Saturday:

L Halfpenny (Cardiff Blues); A Cuthbert
(Cardiff Blues), J Davies (Scarlets), J Roberts (Cardiff Blues), G North
(Scarlets); R Priestland (Scarlets), M Phillips (Bayonne); P James
(Bath), M Rees (Scarlets), A Jarvis (Ospreys), B Davies (Cardiff Blues),
L Charteris (Perpignan), R Jones (Ospreys), S Warburton (Cardiff Blues,
capt), T Faletau (Newport Gwent Dragons).

Replacements: K Owens (Scarlets), G
Jenkins (Toulon), S Andrews (Cardiff Blues), A Shingler (Scarlets), J
Tipuric (Ospreys), T Knoyle (Scarlets), J Hook (Perpignan), S Williams
(Scarlets).

Point to prove: Gatland has not taken charge of a match since this year's Grand Slam win

Point to prove: Gatland has not taken charge of a match since this year's Grand Slam win

'No one is more disappointed than the players and the coaches with how things have gone in the last two weeks,' Gatland said.

'But those supporters who have been with us over the last 18 months know, just as we do, that we are a better side than we have displayed so far, and we will be looking to show that on Saturday.

'This New Zealand team is one of the best rugby sides to have ever played the game, and probably the best All Blacks team ever, so it will be a privilege to be able to test ourselves against them.

'Memories of the Rugby World Cup last year and touring New Zealand the previous summer are still fresh in the mind of many of the players and staff.

Daunting task: The All Blacks head to Cardiff on fine form

Daunting task: The All Blacks head to Cardiff on fine form

'The hospitality shown and the way we were looked after made the experience especially memorable, and that makes it all the more special that we have the opportunity to face the best side in the world at the moment in Cardiff.'

Gatland will retake the hot-seat for two Tests – against New Zealand and Australia on December 1 – before handing back control to interim head coach Rob Howley for Wales' RBS 6 Nations title defence, which starts against Ireland on February 2.

Five things Wales must work on to improve

Humbled Wales need to correct these five fatal flaws and save the autumn series

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UPDATED:

22:52 GMT, 11 November 2012

Eleven years to the day since Rob Howley lost to Argentina at the Millennium Stadium as a player, his side were humbled by the same margin in a pitiful 12-26 defeat.

Wales have failed to win the opening Test of their autumn campaign for 12 years, and the much-vaunted Grand Slam glory has been followed by four consecutive Test match losses (excluding one forgettable run-out against the Barbarians). So, what is going wrong

Floored: Centre Jamie Roberts is treated for concussion

Floored: Centre Jamie Roberts is treated for concussion

GET A GRIP

Argentina put Wales in a headlock and never let go. The hosts are serial slow starters and need to impose their game plan from kick-off, not let their opponents dictate play.

Fumble: Leigh Halfpenny spills a high ball under pressure from Juan Manuel Leguizamon

Fumble: Leigh Halfpenny spills a high ball under pressure from Juan Manuel Leguizamon

Full back Leigh Halfpenny fumbled an awkward ball in the first minute and it set the tone. As Argentina coach Santiago Phelan put it: ‘We took the initiative in the first 20 minutes. The intensity of the game was very high but in the Rugby Championship we learned how to play at this kind of intensity and velocity.’

That the wooden spoon collectors of the Rugby Championship should beat the Grand Slam champions of Europe tells us the north-south divide remains. Asked how the competitions compare, Pumas captain Juan Martin Fernandez Lobbe put it simply: ‘The difference We’re playing against the first, second and third best teams in the world.’

BACK TO THE DRAWING BOARD

Prop Gethin Jenkins was brutally honest. ‘It’s back to the drawing board,’ he said.

‘We’ve got to really look at ourselves. We played into their hands by trying to play too much rugby in our own territory.’

Wales are guilty of trying too hard and thinking about the next phase without properly executing the current one.

Honest assessment: Wales' prop Gethin Jenkins did not hold back with his views after the game

Honest assessment: Wales' prop Gethin Jenkins did not hold back with his views after the game

‘Thinking Clearly Under Pressure’ was a mantra of Sir Clive Woodward’s England side and Wales need a dose of it. Losing centre Jamie Roberts so early with concussion — after a nasty clash of heads with centre Gonzalo Tiesi — left them without their go-to guy.

LIONS WATCH

Leigh Halfpenny’s kicking is as flawless as ever — and he can jump a foot higher than rivals who are a foot taller in any aerial battle — but Wales were so flat no-one enhanced his reputation. Jamie Roberts’ importance was proved in his absence. Sam Warburton must show he can pull his team together when under the cosh.

The centre provides momentum to the side, particularly off the first phase, and without him stand-in coach Howley admitted Wales were one-paced.

There was no dynamism and no precision in their play. On more than one occasion, the flying giants on the flanks had to slow down so as not to get in front of team-mates during their lethargic attacks. Wales love the word momentum, but you must pick up speed first.

FRESHNESS OVER FITNESS

For all the flogging punishment suffered at their training camp in Poland, Wales lost the second half 20-3. They looked sluggish and half a step behind, lacking their trademark zip.

Thirty training sessions in seven days is impressive, but if that doesn’t translate into physical superiority on the pitch then it is just unnecessary torture. Jenkins admitted: ‘I don’t know whether they tired us out in the final 35 minutes, but they upped the tempo and we couldn’t deal with it.’

Putting in the preparation: Jonathan Davies comes out of the cryotherapy chamber in Poland where Wales went of a training camp

Putting in the preparation: Jonathan Davies comes out of the cryotherapy chamber in Poland where Wales went of a training camp

After the final whistle, Wales headed for their cryotherapy sauna in a converted police van in the car park. Argentina had a cold shower and a crate of Bulmers delivered to their changing room.

POWER OF THREES

Wales have lost three key positions in their 3, 6 and 12. Tighthead prop Adam Jones and blindside flanker Dan Lydiate are out for the autumn, and the concussion suffered by centre Roberts will be assessed on Monday. If it is deemed severe then the new IRB regulations could see him sit out the rest of the autumn.

Telling it like it is: Shaun Edwards gave an honest assessment

Telling it like it is: Shaun Edwards gave an honest assessment

Those three positions are vital for an attacking platform — Jones at the scrum, Lydiate at the breakdown and Roberts providing the go-forward off the first phase.

Defensive coach Shaun Edwards pulled no punches afterwards: ‘It was obvious there is a disparity between our first-choice 15 and the players who have got those positions now.’ It gets worse with lock Alun Wyn Jones out for the series with a nasty shoulder injury.

LOOMING LION

Howley is an impressive figure in training — for both his intelligence as a coach and his rapport with the players — but Warren Gatland still looms in the shadows. The Lions head coach was in Dublin on Saturday watching Ireland, but is he the missing link on matchday

Intelligent: Rob Howley is an impressive man

Intelligent: Rob Howley is an impressive man

Wales needed the proverbial rocket at half-time, instead they showed no real change after the break. Gatland returns for the final two games against New Zealand and Australia and his effect on the side will be intriguing. Next up for Wales is their bogey team Samoa at their bogey time — the dreaded Friday night slot — after only a six-day turnaround.

Lose that and Wales are staring down the barrel of a winless autumn. They haven’t beaten New Zealand since 1953 and are on a seven-match losing run against Australia. As hooker Richard Hibbard put it: ‘It just gets more and more physical with the hard-hitters to come.’

Rob Howley "disappointed" after Wales defeat to Argentina

Howley smoke! Wales head coach left 'disappointed, frustrated and annoyed'

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UPDATED:

18:33 GMT, 10 November 2012

Wales interim head coach Rob Howley admitted his side had been made to look lethargic by a battle-hardened Argentina after the Pumas claimed a stunning 26-12 win at the Millennium Stadium.

The Six Nations champions had led 9-6 at the break thanks to three Leigh Halfpenny penalties, with Felipe Contepomi slotting a penalty and Nicolas Sanchez landing a drop goal for the Pumas.

Turning the screw: Juan Imhoff scores a try for Argentina

Turning the screw: Juan Imhoff scores a try for Argentina

Match facts

WALES:

Penalties: Halfpenny (7, 14, 27, 48)

ARGENTINA:

Tries: Imhoff (54), Camacho (59)

Conversions: Sanchez (54, 59)

Penalties: Contepomi (4)

Drop goals: Sanchez (9. 52)

Halfpenny extended Wales' lead with a
fourth penalty early in the second half, but a penalty and drop goal
from Sanchez, plus converted tries for wings Juan Imhoff and Gonzalo
Camacho saw the visitors secure their second win over Wales in Cardiff,
11 years to the day after their first.

The defeat puts a major dent in
Wales' hopes of securing a top-four place in the world rankings ahead of
next month's 2015 World Cup draw, but they can have no qualms after
being exposed by Argentina.

And there looks set to be further bad
news for Howley with Jamie Roberts and Alun Wyn Jones picking up
injuries that put their involvement in the rest of the autumn series in
doubt.

Feeding frenzy: Argentina's Martin Landajo releases the ball

Feeding frenzy: Argentina's Martin Landajo releases the ball

The Pumas, for their part, look to
have quickly learnt the lessons of facing the All Blacks, Australia and
South Africa during their maiden Rugby Championship campaign, and a
frustrated Howley acknowledged the visitors appear to have moved their
game to a new level.

He said: 'I am disappointed, frustrated and annoyed because we know we are a better side than that.

'We talked about it being an arm wrestle for 50 minutes and we were 12-6 ahead but we looked one-paced.

Getting his kicks: Wales' Leigh Halfpenny (left) scores a penalty

Getting his kicks: Wales' Leigh Halfpenny (left) scores a penalty

'When you play Argentina, tempo, pace
and intensity are important but there is no doubt their experience and
exposure to the Rugby Championship has taken that Argentina side to
another level.

'They played the All Blacks, South
Africa and Australia over a six-week period and they have certainly
learned from that and we were exposed to it today and we very much came
second.'

Wales' chances were not helped when a
clearly concussed Roberts was helped off after a clash of heads with
Gonzalo Tiesi, while lock Jones was withdrawn with a shoulder problem
just before the break.

Going south: George North is tackled by Argentina's Juan Martin Fernandez Lobbe (left)

Going south: George North is tackled by Argentina's Juan Martin Fernandez Lobbe (left)

Howley said: 'Jamie has a bump on the
head, it's a mild concussion to say the least. Alun Wyn has done his AC
(joint) so we will have to wait on the medical opinion for that but it
does not look good at this time and it will test our strength in depth
and these next three games are very important.'

Assistant coach Shaun Edwards pulled
no punches in his assessment of the performance, and felt Wales had
badly missed the injured trio of centre Jonathan Davies, prop Adam Jones
and flanker Dan Lydiate, as well as Roberts after he went off.

Double trouble: Manuel Carizza (third right) looks to offload under pressure from Tavis Knoyle (right) and Toby Faletau (right)

Double trouble: Manuel Carizza (third right) looks to offload under pressure from Tavis Knoyle (right) and Toby Faletau (right)

He said: 'I definitely thought the
impact from the Argentina bench was better than ours. We went into the
game with certain personnel missing and it showed quite dramatically in
the last half hour.

'Both starting centres from the Grand
Slam were missing, we had our number six and number three missing and
it showed, and we have to get the other players up to pace as quickly as
possible.

'But it was obvious there is a
disparity at the moment between our first-choice XV and the players who
have got those positions now.'

Chip 'n' chase: Martin Landajo (left) kicks past Tavis Knoyle (right)

Chip 'n' chase: Martin Landajo (left) kicks past Tavis Knoyle (right)

Wales 12 Argentina 26: Halfpenny can"t keep pace as Pumas run riot

Wales 12 Argentina 26: Halfpenny can't keep pace as Pumas run riot

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UPDATED:

17:00 GMT, 10 November 2012

Wales' hopes of securing a top-four seeding in the 2015 World Cup nosedived after Argentina stunned them at the Millennium Stadium.

Eleven years to the day following Argentina's only previous victory over Wales in Cardiff, second-half tries from wings Juan Imhoff and Gonzalo Camacho left the reigning RBS 6 Nations champions reeling.

Turning the screw: Juan Imhoff scores a try for Argentina

Turning the screw: Juan Imhoff scores a try for Argentina

Match facts

WALES:

Penalties: Halfpenny (7, 14, 27, 48)

ARGENTINA:

Tries: Imhoff (54), Camacho (59)

Conversions: Sanchez (54, 59)

Penalties: Contepomi (4)

Drop goals: Sanchez (9. 52)

And to make matters worse, Wales also
suffered a double injury blow when centre Jamie Roberts and lock
Alun-Wyn Jones departed inside the opening 40 minutes.

Full-back Leigh Halfpenny kicked all
Wales' points, but they were outplayed by a Pumas team battle-hardened
from recent home and away appointments with New Zealand, Australia and
South Africa in the southern hemisphere's inaugural Rugby Championship.

Fly-half Nicolas Sanchez weighed in
with two drop-goals, two conversions and a penalty, while veteran centre
Felipe Contepomi kicked a penalty before he was forced off injured
after just 10 minutes. Wales' interim head coach Rob Howley – in charge
while Warren Gatland begins preparations for heading up next summer's
British and Irish Lions tour to Australia – will have been dismayed by
some of his side's lethargy.

It was Wales' fourth defeat on the
bounce, their first at home since last December and a loss that leaves
them with little chance of securing a top four ranking on which top
seeds will based prior to the World Cup draw early next month.

Feeding frenzy: Argentina's Martin Landajo releases the ball

Feeding frenzy: Argentina's Martin Landajo releases the ball

They have Samoa, New Zealand and
Australia still to come over the next three weeks, with Wales having not
beaten the All Blacks since 1953 and suffered seven successive defeats
at the Wallabies' hands.

And Wales' day was summed up three
minutes from time when substitute back-row forward Rob McCusker burst
through – but he blissfully ignored three unmarked team-mates outside
him.

Getting his kicks: Wales' Leigh Halfpenny (left) scores a penalty

Getting his kicks: Wales' Leigh Halfpenny (left) scores a penalty

It was the final misguided act by
Wales, with their players booed off by many in a 51,000-strong crowd.
Wales launched their autumn campaign without injured quartet Jonathan
Davies, Adam Jones, Dan Lydiate and Ryan Jones, but Roberts returned
after knee surgery in a team that also included debutant prop Aaron
Jarvis.

Contepomi and Halfpenny exchanged
penalties during a low-key opening under the stadium's closed roof, but
there was an impressive tempo to Argentina's game that suggested they
meant business. Sanchez put them 6-3 ahead with a drop-goal after 10
minutes, and there was no immediate sign of Wales getting their
much-vaunted wide attacking game into gear.

The Pumas, though, suffered an injury
blow when Contepomi was carried off after being left dazed following a
midfield collision of bodies.

Going south: George North is tackled by Argentina's Juan Martin Fernandez Lobbe (left)

Going south: George North is tackled by Argentina's Juan Martin Fernandez Lobbe (left)

He was replaced by Joaquin Tuculet as
Halfpenny landed an equalising penalty. And the game's
fiercely-punishing trend did not end there as Roberts was helped away
midway through the half.

It looked as though he had been
knocked out following a collision with Pumas centre Gonzalo Tiesi, and
it meant an early entry for Perpignan's James Hook, who won his 66th
cap.

Halfpenny then completed his penalty
hat-trick, putting Wales in front for the first time, but it was
largely unconvincing rugby from the home side.

Playing their first Test match since
June, Wales looked rusty, although Hook's arrival injected a midfield
snap as the home side looked to free wings Alex Cuthbert and George
North.

Double trouble: Manuel Carizza (third right) looks to offload under pressure from Tavis Knoyle (right) and Toby Faletau (right)

Double trouble: Manuel Carizza (third right) looks to offload under pressure from Tavis Knoyle (right) and Toby Faletau (right)

But Wales suffered another injury
blow on the stroke of half-time when lock Jones was forced off clutching
his ribs, and Wales shaded a disappointing 40 minutes 9-6 in front.

With Contepomi off, Sanchez assumed
goalkicking duties, but his opening strike bounced back off the post as
Argentina dominated territory early in the second period.

Sanchez then had another opportunity
just two minutes later, albeit from longer range, and this time he
slipped on making contact with the ball and it fell well short of the
target.

Chip 'n' chase: Martin Landajo (left) kicks past Tavis Knoyle (right)

Chip 'n' chase: Martin Landajo (left) kicks past Tavis Knoyle (right)

Argentina, though, had served notice
to Wales they did not intend slipping off the pace, and the home side
needed some inspiration, rather than perspiration.

Halfpenny's fourth successful penalty
inched Wales further in front, but Sanchez dropped his second goal to
make it a three-point game again midway through the third quarter.

Wales could establish nothing in the
way of sustained momentum, and the Pumas showed them exactly what do
with quality possession when Imhoff sprinted over for a well-worked try
that Sanchez converted.

And it got worse for Wales just six
minutes later, with Imhoff's fellow wing Camacho the beneficiary this
time, finishing superbly in the corner despite Halfpenny's tackle.

Sanchez again converted, leaving Wales in grave danger of defeat unless they could stir during the closing quarter.

But when Sanchez slotted a penalty
nine minutes from time there was no way back for Wales, who delivered
comfortably their worst performance since folding to defeat against
France in Paris 20 months ago.