State of the Nation: Wales

Date published: June 29 2016

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With the June internationals now done and dusted, we look at the state of affairs in each of the competing nations. Next up, Wales.

The whitewash 3-0 series loss to New Zealand exposed how far off Warren Gatland's men are from the world's number one ranked side.

Wales held the current world champions in the opening Test in Auckland, matching them in nearly every facet of the game, however it was the introduction of the All Blacks' replacement bench that took the game away from the visitors.

The mid-week friendly against the Chiefs was meant to be used a platform to bud new talent within the 35-man squad but what happened next could not have been predicted. The 40-7 humiliating defeat to the Chiefs in Hamilton left a rather bitter taste in the mouth of the New Zealand-born coach. Which should be a fairly good indication as to how far off fifth ranked Wales are from the becoming a top rugby nation.

Let us put this defeat into perspective, not that a loss of this margin against a club side needs much explanation, but the alarming fact is that the Welsh side included eight players who were part of the matchday squad in the opening Test.

A demolition was expected in the Wellington Test but in similar fashion to the first half in the opening Test the visitors kept up with the All Blacks in virtually every facet.

That's a real positive keeping in mind that the All Blacks are in the post McCaw and Carter building phase, and it has to be said that Wales' performance in New Zealand has left Gatland and his men pondering on a few things.

When coming up against side's like the All Blacks, well their aren't any sides like them around, yet, seeing that they have only lost three matches since the start of the 2011 World Cup, you have to be clinical on defence and even more dangerous with ball in hand.

Full-back Liam Williams certainly was a standout campaigner for the tourists, but depsite Williams' dangerous counter attacking efforts, Wales only managed to cross the whitewash five times, six if we include the solo try against the Chiefs, while their lacklustre defence leaked 16 tries in total, a sign if anything of their fitness letting them down. Paul Strigeon, the fitness coach shared with Toulon, was sorely missed.

Wales managed to gain 1218 metres while beating 53 defenders for their five Test tries. These numbers are nearly half when compared to the All Blacks' 2197 metres, 90 defenders beaten and scoring 121 points in all three Tests. 

They showed signs of spreading the ball wide, playing with more flair and changing their style of play in a departure from the derided 'Warrenball' we've been highly critical of in the past. Whether they persist with it or revert back to the safer tactics from previous years is what we'll be looking out for come November.

Despite going down 3-0 in New Zealand it's not all negative. The performances of Rhys Webb, Williams, George North for his one Test and especially Taulupe Faletau in many ways reminded us what we already knew – that when it comes to talent Wales aren't in short supply.

A balance is needed between Wales' crash-ball tactic of the past and the adventure to play we've seen in New Zealand, which hopefully we'll see in their four-match November Tests on home soil, when they will surely be more competitive than they were over the last month.

Matches against Australia, Argentina, Japan and South Africa will give us a good indication how much Gatland's men have learnt from this 3-0 series loss and also if 'Warrenball' will continue.

Read the rest of our State of the Nation pieces following the June Tests right here.

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