Posts Tagged ‘Autumn tests’

It was another rather unimpressive display from Wales; we beat Japan thanks to a last minute drop goal by replacement fly half Sam Davies. Japan are a much improved side, and the days of thrashing them are over I think, but really Wales should have won this game by more. It was another stuttering performance, and we failed to take many of our chances.

It did seem that Jamie Roberts, who was dropped for the game against Argentina, was out to prove a point, as he had a very good game. But, I am not a fan of Jamie Roberts. What he does, he does very well, as good as anyone in world rugby. But, for me, he is far too one-dimensional. There is little variety to his game; he is a world class tackler and a world class battering ram, but beyond that I don’t see what else he does. I would much prefer that Wales go with the more varied and skilful play of Scott Williams, I think this can add variety to our attacking game in a way which having Jamie Roberts at inside centre cannot.


Wales beat Japan 33-30, thanks to a last minute drop goal by replacement fly half

It will be interesting to see which combinations Rob Howley picks for our match against South Africa next Saturday. Luckily for Wales, this South African team seem to be amongst the worst in their history. On Saturday they lost for the first time to Italy, going down 20-18. This puts England’s thumping of them into some kind of perspective, but Wales cannot afford to lose next week to such a poor South African team. Not only do we need to win, but we need to win with a convincing performance, something we are yet to show this autumn despite two wins out of three.

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Wales beat Argentina on Saturday (12 November) 24-20, but it was an error strewn and unimpressive performance in my opinion. Yes, it was a significant improvement on the woeful display against Australia the previous week, but with all the territory and possession Wales had in this game we should have won comfortably. Too may moves broke down due to poor passing or poor decision making. We still have a long way to go to get back to any kind of form, which we need to do before we face South Africa in two weeks.


Wales beat Argentina 24-20 on Saturday (12 November), but it was a scrappy win and Wales are still way short of their best.

Wales scored two tries, with one being converted, and three penalties from the boot of Leigh Halfpenny. But, Argentina also scored two tries and were in the game right up until the end. Each time it looked like Wales had the game in their control, Argentina would come back with a score. Their playing in the Rugby Championship has certainly lifted their level of play, they are now far more consistent than they used to be thanks to the discipline of taking part in this annual tournament.

In the other autumn tests, England hammered South Africa 37-21, Scotland lost by a solitary 1 point 23-22 to Australia, Ireland beat Canada 52-21, France beat Samoa 52-8, and New Zealand beat Italy 68-10. England are now on a 11-match winning streak, with all 10 of their matches under Eddie Jones having been won.

Next up for Wales are Japan, with a 14:30 kick-off next Saturday (19 November) at the Millennium Stadium. On paper, it should be the easiest match of the four autumn tests, but we mustn’t forget the shock that Japan inflicted upon South Africa in last year’s World Cup. I  hope that Rob Howley and his coaching team do not make too many changes to the team for Japan. We need to be a settled 15, working as a unit and at our best to take on South Africa the following Saturday.


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I vaguely remember writing a similar title a few months ago, but with “England” instead of “Ireland” in the title. Well, this time it is our Celtic cousins who have impressed me, and Wales who have continued to disappoint and frustrate. On Saturday (5 November), we played Australia in the first of our 4-match autumn test series. I blogged about the series here. To say that we got off to a bad start would be an understatement, Wales were woeful and lost the match 32-8. We were 20-3 down at half time, totally outplayed in the first half by a better, faster, more creative Australia. Things improved very slightly in the second half, but not by much really. It is one of the worst performances by Wales of the last 5-6 years.


Wales slumped to a 32-8 defeat to Australia in the first of their 4-match autumn test series. We were woeful in the first half, but not really that much better in the second.

Later on Saturday, Ireland played world champions New Zealand in the first test of their autumn series. But, not in Dublin as one might have expected, but instead in Chicago! As part of the International Rugby Board’s attempts to broaden the interest in rugby, the match was played at Solider Field, home of the Chicago Bears. When I worked at the University of Chicago I drove past Soldier Field on dozens of occasions. I wonder what odds I would have got on a bet that it would be where Ireland would get their first ever victory over the mighty All Blacks! I am thrilled for Ireland, and as they play New Zealand a second time, in Dublin, in a few weeks’ time I hope that they can repeat it in front of their home fans.


Ireland beat New Zealand for the first time in 111 years of trying. The game was played at Soldier Field in Chicago, part of the attempt to increase the popularity of rugby in the USA.

But, back to Wales. Where on earth do we go from  here after such an abject performance? It is just because it is the first match of the series, and we will get better as the series progresses? Is it because interim coach Rob Howley needs to get his players to buy into his way of doing things? It is because Australia are a very very good side, and we just were outclassed? Our next match is against Argentina, who thrashed Ireland in the quarter finals of last year’s world cup. I await to see how we get on against them, Japan and South Africa before I come to any conclusions, but we could not have had a worse start to the series 😦

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It wasn’t a pretty game, but it was all about the result; and finally it went Wales’ way. Wales beat South Africa 12-6 to end the Autumn Test series on a high, and to register only our second ever win over the Springboks in 108 years. Really we should have won by more, we squandered several try scoring chances; but we also nearly threw the game away in the last few minutes. A poor penalty kick for touch by South Africa saw Welsh replacement Scott Williams fumble the ball, giving the Boks a 5-metre scrum and a golden opportunity for a try. Thankfully the Welsh forwards, who were immense all afternoon, disrupted the South African scrum and Wales cleared their lines.


The official man of the match was Dan Biggar, who had probably his best ever game in a Welsh shirt. His tactics were spot on, and his tackling was incredible. In fact, the tackling of the whole Welsh team all afternoon was incredible, they smashed the South African players back over the gain-line time and time again. Finally, after eight years since our last win over a southern Hemisphere ‘big three’ (Australia in 2008), Wales have taken another scalp to show that we can compete with the best in the World. So many times in the last few years Wales have gone into the last 10 minutes ahead of either Australia or South Africa, only to lose the match. All Welsh rugby fans are hoping that this win will help us develop that self-belief and psychological edge to win these close matches.

All the national teams are building up for next year’s World Cup, and Wales are no exception. Warren Gatland said that this Autumn series, and the 6 Nations which starts in just under nine weeks, are both just preparation for the World Cup. As I’ve mentioned before, Wales find themselves in the ‘group of death’ with both Australia and England, and our next match is against England in Cardiff. England too won on Saturday, beating Australia to end up with the same results from their Autumn tests as Wales – two wins out of four but only one win over one of the ‘big three’. The last time England came down to Cardiff, in March 2013, they were chasing a Grand Slam but we thrashed them 30-3. If Wales can beat England in February then I think it will go a long way to our feeling a psychological supremacy when they meet in the World Cup in October.

As Wales captain Sam Warburton said in the press conference after Saturday’s win, Wales need to make beating a southern hemisphere giant a regular occurrence, not something we do once in a blue moon. We have dominated Northern Hemisphere rugby for most of the last decade; now is the time Wales need to step up to the next level and start beating the big three regularly. We have the fitness and commitment, hopefully Saturday will give us the self-belief that we can do it.

The regular Sunday round-up of the weekend’s rugby action on BBC 2 Wales is called ‘Scrum V’. Last nights review of the game and look ahead to our opening match of the 6 Nations against England ended with the credits rolling to The Beatles’ ‘Here Comes the Sun’. Let’s hope this isn’t another false dawn in the roller coaster that is Welsh rugby!

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When Wales went into the lead against Australia at 28-27, with less than 10 minutes on the clock, I have to admit I doubted they would hold on to win the game. Such is the habit that Wales have made of losing close games to Australia that I no longer believe Wales can win them. Sadly, I was proved right. Using far better game management in the final 10 minutes, Australia scored a drop goal and a penalty to win the game 33-28. That makes it 10 (yes, ten!) wins in a row for Australia over Wales, with the winning margin in each of these being less than a converted try. In this match it was 5 points, in the previous four matches it was 4 points, 2 points, 1 point, and 2 points (working backwards).

Wales suffered their 10th defeat in a row to Australia in, once again, a game they could have won.

Wales suffered their 10th defeat in a row to Australia in, once again, a game they could have won.

This is a game Wales could have won and should have won. The three tries that Australia scored were all down to errors that Wales made. The try that Rhys Webb gave away was a classic example of how naive the Welsh players can be. It came from Australian fullback Israel Folau intercepting a long, speculative miss-pass by the Welsh scrum half, but what on Earth was he doing sending such a pass in the first half of the game? Such risky play is understandable in the last 10 minutes if a side is behind, but to do it in the first half when the sides are fairly equal on the scoreboard is just plain stupid.

Another example of Wales’ stupidity and poor decision making was when we were awarded a penalty with some 7 minutes to go. The scoreboard was at 30-28 to Australia, so a penalty kick would have put us back in the lead. But, Wales squandered the penalty, playing on and losing the ball after the advantage had finished. Stupid, stupid, stupid. Contrast this to Australia’s drop goal. They just drove up the field, going through phase after phase, until they got close enough to slot a drop goal. This is exactly how England won the World Cup back in 2003, when Johnny Wilkinson put over a drop goal to win an incredibly close final. It is not pretty, but it often wins matches. Wales too often want to win with style, which is all very well when you are already well ahead, but in tight games you have to take every point which is on offer.

It is these sort of ridiculous decisions by Wales that, in my opinion, are preventing Wales from taking that step to beating Australia. We have the physical ability and the skill level, and the attacking and defending ability, it is our decision making which is letting us down. Unless we can sort this out, and sort it out soon, we are not going to turn the losing streak we have against Australia around, nor or we going to win other tight games against other teams when the stakes are high.

I sincerely hope that the Wales coaching staff realise that, although they cannot neglect the physical conditioning which they subject the players to, they really need to work on the mental strength and self belief and game management skills. Maybe they need to draft in a sports psychologist to help with this, I don’t know. Ten years ago, Wales ran out of physical puff in the last 15 minutes of match, they just didn’t have the physical conditioning. Those days are gone, we are as fit as any team, but we are woefully laking in game management skills.

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On Saturday (the 8th of November) Wales will begin their Autumn Tests series with a match against Australia. Over the next several weeks we will take on all three of the “Southern Hemisphere giants”, playing Australia, then New Zealand and finally South Africa. We also play a match against Fiji.

The "Dove Men Series" (Autumn Test Series) sees Wales play all 3 major Southern Hemisphere countries.

The “Dove Men Series” (Autumn Test Series) sees Wales play all 3 major Southern Hemisphere countries.

The full list of fixtures is

  • Wales v Australia – Saturday 8th of November, K.O. 14:30 GMT
  • Wales v Fiji – Saturday 15th of November, K.O. 14:30 GMT
  • Wales v New Zealand – Saturday 22nd of November, K.O. 17:30 GMT
  • Wales v South Africa – Saturday 29th of November, K.O. 14:30 GMT

Traditionally, Wales seem to start any series of matches slugishly, be it the 6 Nations or their annual 4 match Autumn series. But, of the three Southern Hemisphere giants to meet for our first game, possibly Australia is the best one as they have just replaced their coach and are going through some transitions. Wales’ last game was the 2nd Test against South Africa back in June, a match we should have won (I blogged about it here). We should therefore go into Saturday’s game with some confidence. In addition, the Welsh regions have been performing quite well so far this season, and the various players who play outside of Wales have also shown good form.

This time next year we will be in the middle of the 2015 Rugby World Cup. Wales have been drawn in the same group as Australia and England, and with only two countries progressing to the knockout stages even advancing from our group is going to be a mighty challenge. Saturday’s match against Australia will be the last time we play them before the World Cup, we play then at Twickenham on the 10th of October in our final group match. We have lost far too many narrow games against Australia in the last several years, it is time to turn these defeats around and beat them.

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With November approaching, it is almost time for the annual tradition of the Wales rugby team playing 4 autumn test matches. This year, Wales have the following fixtures:

Wales’ autumn tests, 2012
Date Country Record (Played/Win/Loss/Draw)
Saturday 10th November Argentina 13/7/5/1
Friday 16th November Samoa 7/4/3/0
Saturday 24th November New Zealand 27/3/24/0
Saturday st December Australia 29/10/18/1

Of course, Wales are reigning Grand Slam champions, and have been playing some superb rugby since August 2011. They were very unlucky not to get to the 2011 rugby World Cup final, narrowly losing to France 8-7 in the semi-final after having their captain Sam Warburton sent off early in the match.

Wales winning the 2012 Grand Slam.

Realistically, I think anything less than a 3-1 win ratio in the 2012 Autumn series will be disappointing. We have to beat Argentina and Samoa, but also we need to win one of the two last games, either against New Zealand or Australia. Of these two, I think we are more likely to beat Australia. This prediction is partly based on coming so close to beating them in 2 of the 3 test matches Wales played in Australia this last June, but also because we have not beaten the All Blacks since 1953!!

In all, Wales have played the All Blacks on 27 occasions. Amazingly, when Wales last beat NZ, in 1953, it was only the 4th test match between the two countries, and in winning that test Wales were 3-1 up in the series, with wins in 1905, 1935 and 1953 and only one loss in 1924. Since then, it has been all one-way traffic, with Wales losing 23 matches in succession!

We have come close to beating them on a couple of occassions. One of those is the match in 1978, when the dominant Welsh teacm of the 1970s should have beaten them, and would ahve beaten them if it had not been for some cheating by NZ. With just minutes on the clock, the score was 12-10 to Wales. NZ secured a line out about 30 metres from the Welsh tryline. In the ensuing line out, the NZ second-row forward Andy Haden came flying out of the line and onto the ground. The referee, without hesitation, awarded NZ with a penalty. Except TV footage showed that no-one had pushed Haden, he had dived out of his own accord to cheat get just that decision from the referee. Haden himself finally admitted that it was a professional dive in an interview. NZ converted the penatly, and won the game 12-13.

From an article in The Independent, about Andy Haden of New Zealand confessing to his deliberate dive in the 1978 match against Wales.

What are your predictions for this Autumn series?

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