Wales interim coach Rob Howley insists the prospect of facing world champions New Zealand can lift the gloom hanging over his team after Friday’s 26-19 loss to Samoa.
Wales may have won the Six Nations this year but are veering toward crisis point after Samoa subjected them to a fifth straight defeat.
Wales, World Cup semi-finalists this time last year, have slumped to eighth in the world rankings with the All Blacks due at the Millennium Stadium next Saturday.
“Many of us have been here before and we know what it’s like as players and coaches,” Howley said.
“Over the past 12 months this team has been to a World Cup semi-final and a Grand Slam, we’ve had many highs and now we’re going through a low point. We have to look at ourselves individually and collectively and bounce back,” he said.
“Rugby gives you an opportunity to do that and I’ve told the players to look forward to when they’re winning again. We will stick together and we have two good games to come in New Zealand and Australia,” Howley said.
Ashley Beck gave Wales a 13-6 lead with an interception try on his home debut only for Fa’atoina Autagavaia, George Pisi and Johnny Leota to cross as Samoa evoked memories of their famous World Cup victories over Wales in 1991 and 1999 — as Western Samoa — with a combination of ferocious tackling and clinical finishing.
That was in stark contrast to Wales who failed to put together any sustained pressure due to basic errors and a lack of composure that led to Samoa captain David Lemi branding the European champions as “predictable.”
“We’ve been watching Wales since the World Cup. They used the same tactics in the Six Nations and against Argentina. If you stop their go-forward man then you stop them playing,” Lemi said.
Howley responded: “We have changed things so if they [Samoa] want to say we’re predictable then it’s up to them.”
“We are disappointed as a coaching team and players. International rugby is about discipline and making the most of opportunities when they come along,” he said.
“We were out-performed by a Samoa team able to keep the ball for longer periods than we were, which was the most disappointing aspect. We were not smart enough with the ball,” Howley said.
Wales lost Ospreys trio Richard Hibbard (shoulder), Dan Biggar (shoulder) and Ian Evans (knee) before half-time and all three now look set to join a growing casualty list that already includes Adam Jones, Dan Lydiate and Alun Wyn Jones.
Samoa now head to France for next week’s Test in Paris.
“We will give it our best shot against France. The boys have proved we can achieve our goals. We were not here to make up the numbers, we came to win and try to get in the top eight. The players proved they wanted it,” head coach Stephen Betham said.