Jonathan Davies: No hiding place on a tough tour for Wales

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The Independent Online

Wales coach Steve Hansen has a massive job in repairing team morale before their forthcoming ordeals against Australia and New Zealand. It doesn't help that he shares the blame for the missed-plane fiasco that made Wales a laughing stock last week.

Man-management is a vital part of his job and that of team manager Alan Phillips, and they should have headed off that row before it got to boiling point as they were about to depart. It's been simmering for weeks and should have been settled before the Barbarians game last weekend. You can't get a team to focus with that sort of unrest.

The players were not asking for anything unreasonable. The lack of insurance for the trip was the main bugbear, that and the fact that some faced the possibility of not being paid at all for making the trip.

The row wasn't of their making, but the priority of Hansen and Phillips is the welfare of their squad, and they should have insisted on a settlement much earlier.

When you're not at your best there is no good time to play Australia and New Zea-land, but this is a particularly bad time. Even without the nat-ure of their departure, Wales would have arrived down under after a long and miserable season, while their hosts are in the middle of theirs.

It will be the same when they come here in November as we are just starting to get into our stride. It is a disadvantage whichever direction you have to travel, but when you do it with low confidence and subdued morale it takes on an awesome prospect.

Some say that Wales will benefit because a lot of Australia's top players are injured, but I hope they don't fall for that theory. The younger Aussies will be desperate to register their mark.

They will be very methodical, and Wales will face strong, big ball-carriers. Two players I shall be watchingare Lote Tuqiri and Wendell Sailor, both former rugby league wingers who haven't done as well as expected. This will offer them a chance to start their peaking process.

You can bank on Wales treating these two games as defensive operations, and they will pick their team accordingly. They have no option.

New Zealand are likely to be even more fearsome, and one of the brutal facts about going down there is that you don't get any ball. The fight for places in the All Black team for the World Cup is tremendous. Their pack can play any type of game, and they'll be out to prove their ability to win enough ball for their backs. Wales could face the brunt of it, but they have to regard it as part of their World Cup preparations, from which they can draw experience.

But it is not defensive experience they urgently need. In their group matches against Italy, Canada and Tonga they'll need to put the accent on attack, so their more productive preparation games will be in August, when they play Scotland, England and Ireland.

Meanwhile, I can't help thinking of when Wales toured New Zealand in 1988. We'd just won the Triple Crown but were so apprehensive we'd have been delighted to miss the plane.

There was no question about us arguing about money, because in those days there wasn't any. In fact, we were in debt, because we spent fortunes ringing home to complain about our lot.

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