Chiefs brutally exposed Welsh flaws

Date published: June 15 2016

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Midweek games are always precarious chances for Test sides to end up with egg on their face, as Wales now know all too well following Tuesday's disaster in Waikato.

The opportunities those extra fixtures provide for coaches as well as players however are invaluable. Two years ago the 34-12 win over the Eastern Province Kings in South Africa enabled Gatland to edge closer to a verdict on now regular Test squad members like Scott Baldwin, Rhodri Jones, Jake Ball.

What's interesting is ten of those players who featured against the Kings were not picked to tour New Zealand two years later, not due to retirements or injury but through slipping down the pecking order.

Additionally four of the players from the 23-man squad – Baldwin, Ball, Turnbull and Morgan – all played in Port Elizabeth two years ago and yet found themselves back in the midweek side against the Chiefs.

A fully-fit Wales side as we saw in the first Test for 60 minutes can match the world's top sides, but now beyond that XV alarm bells are ringing.

Wales' humbling at the hands of the Chiefs will have told Gatland plenty about the abilities of his fringe players to make the step up. There's a good chance many won't have that opportunity again.

Had this been a fully-stocked Chiefs outfit featuring Damian McKenzie, Sam Cane, Aaron Cruden and the rest then a bit of slack would have been warranted. Except that was from the case, as a blend of Chiefs reserves and squad members combined with some first XV players like Brad Weber and James Lowe to run amok and score six tries.

There's no way of spinning 40-7 into a positive for Wales, who having prided themselves on their fitness in the past and yet looked worn down in both the closing stages of the first Test and on Tuesday.

Fitness coach Paul Strigeon isn't part of the tour due to his shared commitments with Toulon and how it shows.

Not only were Wales sluggish defensively, allowing Stephen Donald to look like McKenzie with his break ahead of the opening try, but the butchery on attack we've seen so often from this Wales side was in full evidence again.

The width and lick that Wales played with in Auckland against New Zealand pointed to a much welcome change to their attack, but there was none of that in Hamilton. Squandering an multiple-man overlap is unforgiveable anywhere, but most of all at the home of Super Rugby's most exciting side this year.

James King will have reviewed the tape and sat there head in hands wondering why he didn't pass to Gareth Davies from a scrum five metres out – far from complex, and a criminal lack of execution.

What was there to really gain from facing a weakened Chiefs outfit? Win and no one would have batted an eyelid. Lose and you're a laughing stock.

Wales pulled something special out of the bag for the majority of the first Test after a dire outing at Twickenham, but expecting the same to happen against a less rusty All Blacks outfit in Wellington's Cake Tin feels like too much of an ask. 

The fears about this tour to New Zealand look as if they're about to become a reality.

by Ben Coles

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