Wales centre Johnny Williams calls for ‘patience’ after narrow defeat by England… but is time running out for coach Wayne Pivac?
- Wales were beaten 24-13 by England at Llanelli on Saturday night
- Wales have lost seven of nine Tests since Pivac succeeded Warren Gatland
- Pivac’s side must beat Italy on Saturday to finish fifth in the Autumn Nations Cup
While Wales might be pleased that they avoided a walloping by England the harsh reality is they are now one defeat from being labelled the worst top-tier team in Europe.
As the Autumn Nations Cup has followed exactly the form of the stilted Six Nations Wayne Pivac’s side now have to beat Italy for the uneasy pleasure of finishing fifth next Saturday.
They should surely have plenty to beat the Azzurri, who have not managed to win against a Six Nations side in 39 consecutive Tests stretching way back to 2015.
Centre Johnny Williams has urged Wales fans to keep their patience after the latest defeat
Defeat there, then, would be a disaster. Dodging one after only losing by 11 points to the English meant there was a quiet acceptance of the result at Parc y Scarlets.
Wales at least showed more fight and bite – that which they were renowned for under Warren Gatland – but allowing themselves to be too content would be a dangerous precedent for Wales to set.
After their seventh defeat in nine Tests Pivac and his posse kept reminding everyone that England are ranked second in the world and they are seven places further back now and building.
But that is only because Wales have slumped significantly since falling four points short of making the World Cup final a year ago.
Nick Tompkins, the centre, measured up the positives and negatives.
‘We’re under no illusion that it was England, we know the rivalry and know how all our of fans feel about it, so we aren’t happy that we lost by any stretch of the imagination,’ he said.
‘But they’re number two in the world and we could have capitalised on a couple of chances.
‘It sometimes feels we shoot ourselves in the foot and our mistakes are our undoing, but if we look at the positives we are in these games.
‘We are asking for good performances and they are better.
Wales have lost seven of nine Tests since Wayne Pivac succeeded Warren Gatland last year
‘It’s going to come. If we keep chipping away the rock will crack. We just have to keep pounding at it.’
At the moment it is more like extracting blood from a stone. There is no evidence yet – certainly post-covid – of the swashbuckling attacking treasures Pivac promised to unlock.
But then again, it is not as if anyone is playing brilliant rugby in Europe right now.
So with 2020 the year of the set-piece, kicking and power game Wales can at least take the Italians to the cleaners up front next week; fix a consistently faulty scrum and lineout to prove old strengths have not been lost.
Injuries are a clear mitigating factor. Pivac is without Ken Owens, Jonathan Davies, Justin Tipuric, Josh Navidi, Ross Moriarty, Liam Williams, Tomos Williams and has seen George North drastically lose form.
In their absence he has found new men in Shane Lewis-Hughes, James Botham and Johnny Williams – who have all performed admirably – but there is little else to pin hopes on yet.
Centre Williams concluded: ‘I know fans have been going nuts, but keep your patience with us. We will keep building.’
A demolition job on Italy will allow more serious construction to follow next year.