Howley preaches need for speed as sluggish Wales engulfed by gloom

Coach's men under pressure to rediscover their sharpness against Samoa on Friday

The Millennium Stadium

There was a resolute shake of the head and a definitive "no" when Wales's stand-in leader Rob Howley was asked if encroaching decline in the regions had any bearing on the rudderless, ramshackle display against Argentina. Perhaps the question needs to be rephrased. Should standards fall any lower against New Zealand and Australia, will decline in the international arena send the professional game in Wales into greater despair?

Samoa on Friday offers an early reprieve from the gathering gloom but Wales will have to be far sharper than they were against Argentina not only to prevail but build on the aura of Grand Slam champions. If immersion in elite combat against the southern hemisphere's finest was behind the resounding empowerment of Argentina, then Wales must hope there is a commensurate benefit after this drubbing.

Certainly, there was a cohesion and belief about the visitors that the hosts could not match. It mattered not that Argentina did not record a victory in the inaugural Rugby Championship. Going deep against the All Blacks, the Boks and Australia, while the northern hemisphere slept, forged a new and compelling unity on the Argentina side.

Wales presented a collection of big reputations, which, shorn of the same intensity of preparation, could not keep pace in any aspect of the game. Had Argentina kicked less in the opening period and ran at the Welsh lines it might have been worse. The hand speed and lines of attack through the three-quarters and wings provided the kind of thrills the crowd expected of Wales.

George North and Alex Cuthbert appeared sluggish in comparison with counterparts in powder blue shirts, Juan Imhoff and the excellent Gonzalo Camacho, who both went over after the break for the only tries of the match. Leigh Halfpenny's unfailing boot was the only reply. His four penalties gave Wales an unrepresentative lead at 12-6, but once Imhoff finished off a rampant passing sequence by slipping inside the stretched Halfpenny to dive under the posts, Wales were utterly skewered. Camacho's outstretched hand in the corner under pressure from Halfpenny merely iced the cake.

Wales lost Jamie Roberts and Alun Wyn Jones to crushing first-half tackles, compounding the absence of Adam Jones and Dan Lydiate. But that was not the reason Wales lost, leaving Howley with nowhere to go but the brave-face corner. "We trained well all week, but looked one paced. We need to speak to players for the reasons why. Tempo and pace is important. There is no doubt that the experience and exposure to that championship [the Rugby Championship] has taken Argentine rugby to a new level. They have learned against the best in the summer. We were very much second best. That is disappointing and frustrating."

Wales's assistant coach, Shaun Edwards, believed before this encounter that this was the best prepared Welsh team in his tenure. His face was a sheet of granite afterwards as a new reality dawned. "I definitely thought the impact from the Argentina bench was better than ours. We went into the game with certain personnel missing and it showed quite dramatically in the last half hour," Edwards said. "Both starting centres from the Grand Slam were missing. We had our No 6 and No 3 missing and it showed. We have to get the other players up to pace as quickly as possible. But it was obvious there is a disparity at the moment between our first-choice XV and the players who have got those positions now."

With Wales looking to secure an easier route through the World Cup seeding pot when the world rankings are adjusted next month, the requirement to respond has acquired greater urgency, as Howley acknowledged: "We want to get into the top four. This is a setback but we have three games to go. There is a lot to play for. It is important we go into these games with belief and confidence, to get back to winning ways against Samoa."

For the neutral, and for the game as a whole, the steep improvement in breadth and consistency of Argentina was a delight to observe. They have always had world-class individuals peppering the team but this was different. The speed and conviction of the backs, the commitment and industry of the forwards, exemplified by the man-of-the-match display of skipper and blindside Juan Martin Fernandez Lobbe, augments the global rugby template. For Argentina the victory was, according to Lobbe, a demonstration of how far this team has come.

"To get a win against the Six Nations champions affirms the way we are trying to play and what we are trying to do. It's great for our confidence. We were close in the championship but didn't manage to do it. But we gained experience. Today was similar to what we did against Australia, making two quick scores. Australia came back but today we were able to play the last 10 minutes mostly in their half."

Wales: L Halfpenny; A Cuthbert, S Williams, J Roberts, G North; R Priestland , T Knoyle;: G Jenkins, M Rees , A Jarvis, I Evans , A-W Jones , J Turnbull, T Faletau (Dragons), S Warburton (capt). Replacements: J Hook for Roberts, 23, R McCusker for Jones, 40; M Phillips for Knoyle 56, R Hibbard for Rees 60, P James for Jarvis 60, R Bevington for Jenkins 69, J Tipuric for Warburton 70.

Argentina: J M Hernandez; G Camacho , G Tiesi , F Contepomi , J J Imhoff; N Sanchez, M Landajo; J M Fernandez Lobbe (capt), J M Leguizamon, L Senatore, J F Cabello, M Carizza, J Figallo, E Guinazu, M Ayerza. Replacements: J Tuculet for Contepomi 13, H Agulla for Hernandez 46, A Creevy for Guinazu 49, T Leonardi for Senatore 57, T Vallejos for Cabello 65, J Gomez for Figallo, 67, N Vergallo for Landajo 67, B Posiglioni for Ayerza 79.

Referee: Romain Poite (France)..

Suggested Topics
Premier League Live
footballLIVE Follow all the Premier League action as it happens
The slice of Prince Charles and Princess Diana's wedding cake and the original box from 29 July 1981
newsPiece of Charles and Diana's wedding cake sold at auction in US
Life and Style
3D printed bump keys can access almost any lock
gadgets + echSoftware needs photo of lock and not much more
James Argent from Towie is missing, police say
peopleTV star had been reported missing
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Gregg Wallace in Summer's Supermarket Secrets
tv All of this year's 15 contestants have now been named
i100(and it's got nothing to do with the Great British Bake Off)
Arts and Entertainment
Inside the gallery at Frederick Bremer School in Walthamstow
tvSimon Usborne goes behind the scenes to watch the latest series
Life and Style
A picture taken on January 12, 2011 shows sex shops at the Paris district of Pigalle.
newsThe industry's trade body issued the moratorium on Friday
Arts and Entertainment
Could we see Iain back in the Bake Off tent next week?
tv Contestant teased Newsnight viewers on potential reappearance
Life and Style
Silvia says of her famous creation: 'I never stopped wearing it. Because I like to wear things when they are off the radar'
fashionThe fashion house celebrated fifteen years of the punchy pouch with a weighty tome
The Ukip leader has consistently refused to be drawn on where he would mount an attempt to secure a parliamentary seat
voicesNigel Farage: Those who predicted we would lose momentum heading into the 2015 election are going to have to think again
Arts and Entertainment
Cara Delevingne made her acting debut in Anna Karenina in 2012
film Cara Delevingne 'in talks' to star in Zoolander sequel
Mario Balotelli pictured in his Liverpool shirt for the first time
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Ukraine crisis: The phoney war is over as Russian troops and armour pour across the border

The phoney war is over

Russian troops and armour pour into Ukraine
Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

The world’s entire food system is under attack - and Britain is most at risk, according to a new study
Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Seoul's plastic surgery industry is booming thanks to the popularity of the K-Pop look
From Mozart to Orson Welles: Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

After the death of Sandy Wilson, 90, who wrote his only hit musical in his twenties, John Walsh wonders what it's like to peak too soon and go on to live a life more ordinary
Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Fears are mounting that Vladimir Putin has instructed hackers to target banks like JP Morgan
Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years

Salomé: A head for seduction

Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years. Now audiences can meet the Biblical femme fatale in two new stage and screen projects
From Bram Stoker to Stanley Kubrick, the British Library's latest exhibition celebrates all things Gothic

British Library celebrates all things Gothic

Forthcoming exhibition Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination will be the UK's largest ever celebration of Gothic literature
The Hard Rock Café's owners are embroiled in a bitter legal dispute - but is the restaurant chain worth fighting for?

Is the Hard Rock Café worth fighting for?

The restaurant chain's owners are currently embroiled in a bitter legal dispute
Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival

In search of Caribbean soul food

Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival
11 best face powders

11 best face powders

Sweep away shiny skin with our pick of the best pressed and loose powder bases
England vs Norway: Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Lack of Englishmen at leading Premier League clubs leaves manager hamstrung
Angel Di Maria and Cristiano Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

Di Maria and Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

They both inherited the iconic shirt at Old Trafford, but the £59.7m new boy is joining a club in a very different state
Israel-Gaza conflict: No victory for Israel despite weeks of death and devastation

Robert Fisk: No victory for Israel despite weeks of devastation

Palestinians have won: they are still in Gaza, and Hamas is still there
Mary Beard writes character reference for Twitter troll who called her a 'slut'

Unlikely friends: Mary Beard and the troll who called her a ‘filthy old slut’

The Cambridge University classicist even wrote the student a character reference
America’s new apartheid: Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone

America’s new apartheid

Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone