The Wales management acknowledged publicly yesterday that things are far from right with their national set-up. First, the Wales coach, Graham Henry, announced eight changes from the team defeated by Argentina at the weekend – four positional and four personnel – for the side to face Tonga in Cardiff on Saturday, which spoke volumes.
These include moving the former rugby league stand-off Iestyn Harris out to inside centre and sandwiching him between the Llanelli fly-half Stephen Jones (switched from centre, where he played last week) and Allan Bateman, who has been recalled from the bench to outside centre.
"It is unfortunate that we have to teach Iestyn in international matches," remarked the Wales manager, Alan Phillips. Further changes see Gareth Thomas moving back out to the right wing and the prop Darren Morris swapping sides in the front row to replace David Young, who resigned the captaincy and called time on his Test career on Monday.
In addition to Bateman, Iestyn Thomas takes over at loose-head from Morris, Ian Gough comes in at lock for Craig Quinnell, who is dropped completely and Brett Sinkinson swaps his place on the bench for blind-side with Gavin Thomas.
Henry admitted that he is feeling the pressure. "You are always going to feel it when you are coaching a national side. I feel personally responsible, but at the moment it is a challenge to get it right."
But Henry and his coaching staff are working under a handicap, as Phillips explained. "The problem is we have no control over our players. Apart from Iestyn Harris we have no primacy of contract with international players." That means they cannot dictate if a player plays, or rests, in club competition during the build-up to crucial Test matches; nor can they request where a player plays.
"The players want to win for David Young, Graham Henry and the coaching staff," Scott Quinnell, the new captain insisted. He will need all the experience of his 44 Wales caps as well as his three Lions Tests if he is to turn things around.
WALES (v Tonga, Millennium Stadium, Saturday): K Morgan (Swansea); G Thomas (Bridgend), A Bateman (Neath), I Harris (Cardiff), A Sullivan (Cardiff); S Jones (Llanelli), R Howley (Cardiff); I Thomas (Ebbw Vale), R McBryde (Llanelli), D Morris (Swansea), I Gough (Newport), A Moore (Swansea), C Charvis (Swansea), B Sinkinson (Neath), S Quinnell (Llanelli, capt). Replacements: B Williams (Neath), S John (Cardiff), C Wyatt (Llanelli), G Thomas (Bath), D Peel (Llanelli), J Robinson (Cardiff), R Williams (Cardiff).Reuse content