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Page last updated at 11:17 GMT, Sunday, 29 November 2009

Fans disappointed by Wales slump

By Gareth Roberts
BBC Sport Wales

Replacement prop Duncan Jones slumps dejectedly
Replacement prop Duncan Jones slumps dejectedly after defeat by Australia at the Millennium Stadium

Wales' poor finish to the autumn Tests courtesy of Australia's 33-12 win at the Millennium Stadium on Saturday clearly came as a shock to a significant number of their fans.

How else can the fact Warren Gatland's men were booed at the end of what was one of the grimmest days of his tenure as coach be explained?

The only problem for those who vented their spleen so vocally is that this particular performance should really not have come as such a shock to them.

There was clearly a marked contrast between Wales and the Wallabies - the visitors' improvement was only matched in scale by Wales' deterioration.

But the progress of each team's performance levels were there to see ahead of Australia's four-tries-to-none victory.


The visitors could - and perhaps should - have been gunning for a Grand Slam, having beaten England, only to then draw with Ireland thanks to a late Brian O'Driscoll try and lose 9-8 to Scotland despite producing attacking statistics that suggested they should have won by around 30-40 points.

Wales meanwhile have flattered to deceive during November. They threw everything at New Zealand, who threw just a little bit more back and who certainly had a lot more in reserve.

Then they created a glut of counter-attack chances against Samoa only to fluff the opportunities against the South Sea Islanders, who were unlucky not to steal victory at the death.

And then came Argentina, whose naivety played into the opportunistic hands of try-scorers Stephen Jones and Shane Williams.

So by the time Australia came to Cardiff, Wales had put in one brave effort against a major team (NZ), produced a disappointing display in the win against Samoa and relied on a few flashes of individual endeavour to beat Argentina.

That was hardly a recipe for the sort of confidence some Welsh fans and pundits were displaying ahead of the clash with Australia, a team honour-bound by national tradition to do all in their power to redeem themselves in the eyes of a hyper-critical public and media.

However, there was one rather surprising aspect of Wales' play against Australia to worry about in addition their creative failures: the defence.

Wales may be the first major international team to have perfected the drift attack: flat, one-paced, ready for the hit and pushing for the safety of the touchline.

Gareth Roberts, BBC Sport Wales

Such has been the emphasis on that aspect of Wales' play under Gatland and Shaun Edwards that even in attack Wales' formation has recently mirrored a defensive pattern.

Wales may be the first major international team to have perfected the drift attack: flat, one-paced, ready for the hit and pushing for the safety of the touchline.

But as much as the lack of creativity in the Welsh back division has been highlighted, against Australia, Wales' defence also came unstuck in a manner that must cause Gatland and Edwards considerable concern.

Australia scored four tries and Wales' effort and determination as they attempted to retrieve the situation could not be faulted.

But their methods were unproductive, notably when Williams' replacement Tom James drifted away from Jamie Roberts after fly-half Jones created Wales' best chance of the day.

James, 22, is a raw talent with huge potential after coming to rugby late from athletics and Wales and Cardiff Blues must persevere with his development.

Roberts, 23, however, is a hugely athletic rugby player who became an instant hit on the British and Irish Lions tour to South Africa only to find himself in difficult circumstances thus far this season: off-form and suffering from second-season syndrome.

But while James and Roberts' fluffed chance against the Wallabies was a symptom of Wales' display, the cause of the ailment lies elsewhere.

Gatland and his support staff should do two things as a matter of urgency in the three months leading up to the Six Nations.

Firstly redress the balance in emphasis between attack and defence - and perhaps have in mind the old cliche that the best form of defence is attack.

And secondly, they should seek out a midfield player as capable in attack as he is in defence. He's pretty elusive too, by all accounts, and can be summed up in two words: Gavin Henson.


Jenkins rues Wales fans' boos

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see also
Gatland 'disappointed' with Wales
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Autumn international rugby as it happened
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Wales v Australia: Full record
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Scotland 9-8 Australia
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Wales 33-16 Argentina
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