Rugby Union: Britain needs a mix to match

Jonathan Davies says it is a Lion-sized task after watching an All Black power show
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The Independent Online
After the lessons of this game, and with another big defeat looming for England at Twickenham on Saturday, we are going to have to think seriously about matching the Lions against touring opposition of this calibre in the future.

Wales could not have played better or more bravely than they did at Wembley yesterday, especially in the second half, and yet a hammering was never in doubt. If we are going to entertain the Southern Hemisphere sides during autumn then it will be to the all-round benefit of British rugby if the Lions represent us in matches at Twickenham, Murrayfield, Lansdowne Road and the new Arms Park.

Apart from the fact that we can guarantee closer contests, it will do our rugby far more good than receiving repeated heavy defeats. The argument against it will be that the individual countries will not improve if they are not exposed to brilliant teams like New Zealand. Well, you can learn from one hiding but you don't derive much from having the same lesson rammed down your throat time after time.

We all gained so much confidence and knowledge from the success of the Lions in South Africa in the summer and the returning players took a lot of experience back to their countries - but how much of that confidence is left now?

We must face the fact that these teams, New Zealand especially, have raised the game to a new level that we are going to take a long time to match. While we are trying, we may as well make the most of the great rugby that will result if the Lions are allowed to defend our own shores as well as invade others.

Having said that, I hope all Welshman can take a great deal of consolation from their team's performance yesterday. It was a great occasion at Wembley. I fancy it wasn't quite as electric as the place gets for rugby league encounters but it was close enough to send those excellent Welsh fans back home with some satisfaction. I think I saw enough to suggest that Wales are going to do well in the Five Nations. The way they re-grouped at the interval to come back and grab a big share of the second half must have pleased the coach, Kevin Bowring.

I was particularly impressed with Allan Bateman. I wouldn't be surprised if he took one of Jonah Lomu's legs back home with him. Gareth Llewellyn played exceptionally well and totally justified his selection. Nigel Walker was another who repaid Bowring's faith in him.

The winger's battle with Wilson was one of the highlights but each time he floored him the way the All Blacks swarmed into action to get the ball back and mount attacks was awesome. That is the only word to describe them - and this was after they made a lot of uncharacteristic mistakes. I'm afraid they're going to put that right on Saturday.

I still haven't made my mind up whether this is a better side than the 1988 All Blacks. They've developed parts of their game tremendously well, especially the way they can cause situations that are a mismatch between forwards and backs.

As well as any of our teams can play, you can be sure that they will wear them down. They are patient and prepared to dig away until the gap appears. I was pleased Wales showed that patience in the second half when they pounded away without any real penetration. Suddenly a gap opened for Llewellyn and he put Walker through to score.

You might have noticed that after Walker touched the ball down, Justin Marshall gave him a forearm smash on the back of his neck. Nasty, yes, but it was more annoyance that they'd lost the clean sheet they wanted. The All Blacks were 39 points up at the time - will we ever acquire that ultra-professional attitude?

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