Wales 38 Pacific Islanders 20: Jenkins purrs over Wales' new strength in depth

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The Independent Online

It seems almost a cliché to say it, but why not, it was true. The most joyous cheer in Cardiff on Saturday afternoon was indeed reserved for the news of England's demise. The comparisons then began and the glare of the contrast lit up the Welsh sky.

It is all about reserves, they screamed. Not just of the second XV variety who so effortlessly left a bunch of pitifully under-prepared Pacific Islanders all at sea, but also in the stock of belief stored deep within a side who had not won for nine months. Like England, they went into their second autumn Test without a win in six games. Unlike England, they never even entertained the notion that third-tier opposition could extend the drought.

"In a way that was as about as pleasurable as anything today," said Gareth Jenkins, now with a discernible swagger after his first victory in charge. "The boys ran out there with confidence and were not restrained by fear of defeat in any way. This will make us even more relaxed. Nothing got to us out there."

Indeed, not even the Islanders, that delicious concept of Fiji-Tonga-Samoa eclecticism, who had promised to leave a mark with their own brand of horizontal savagery. But this afternoon was all about their big misses, not their big hits, as they learned what their coach, Pat Lam, had long expected they might: outrageous talent and physicality will never be enough in the cerebral world of top-flight rugby. Wales do not have the word "Brains" emblazoned across their chests for nothing, you know.

Admittedly, that is being rather unfair to the star-shooting visitors. Last year's Lions debacle proved just how difficult it is in the modern age to gel an unfamiliar squad into anything like a cohesive unit. And this rabble were nothing like a cohesive unit in the first half.

In 40 minutes of oval-ball anarchy they threw as many interceptions as they did successful line-outs - two. The break's 31-5 scoreline was, if anything, flattering. They dragged back some dignity with a few second-half tries and Kameli Ratuvou embodied the ray of hope Lam desperately needed.

"At the start we looked like a team who have only just come together," said the Samoan, who as a player was on the winning team five times against Wales. "Some of the guys hardly knew each other but they started talking, got better and that's a good sign for the rest of the tour against Scotland and Ireland."

Lam knows the importance of gaining at the very least a close scoreline in these next two weekends, as without it the South Seas dream might be over before it has ever really got going. "We must show the game we belong here," he said.

Jenkins, of course, has no need to sidestep any such impending apocalypse, although after watching New Zealand's destruction of France, he confessed that he needed to utilise every last ounce of Wales' newly found "strength in depth" for their own date with the greats a week on Saturday. This has only increased the likelihood that he will use Friday's match with Canada as a full-blown dress rehearsal.

Should Stephen Jones not recover from a knee injury in time to play the lead role at No 10, then it now seems certain that James Hook will get the prompt, despite Ceri Sweeney's faultless performance here. The nerveless manner in which Hook took the first interception try enhanced his reputation yet further, as did his classic portrayal of inside-centre defence. Perhaps the question should now be, will Jenkins drop Gavin Henson at No 12 if Jones is fit? Indeed, there must be a number of other such imponderables dancing around the coach's head.

Mark Jones, for one, must be on the brink of ousting Gareth Thomas. The wing's early finish was the perfect product of pace and know-how. Elsewhere, Duncan Jones's man-of-the-match, captain's display at loosehead prop underlined the riches available in the front row. "Yes, I'm now like one of those managers who say they've got a 'selection headache'," Jenkins said. He was not expecting Andy Robinson to send down a share of his aspirin in sympathy.

Wales: Tries M Jones, Hook, Morgan, Byrne, Sweeney; Conversions Sweeney 5; Penalty Sweeney. Pacific Islanders: Tries Va'a, Mapusua, Ratuvou; Conversion Pisi; Penalty Pisi.

Wales: K Morgan (Dragons); L Byrne, S Parker, J Hook (all Ospreys), M Jones (Scarlets); C Sweeney (Dragons), M Phillips (Blues); D Jones (Ospreys, capt), R Thomas (Blues), C Horsman (Worcester), M Owen (Dragons), R Sidoli (Blues), A W Jones (Ospreys), G Thomas, A Popham (both Scarlets). Replacements: S Williams (Ospreys) for M Jones, 53; A R Jones (Ospreys) for Horsman, 56; G Evans (Scarlets) for Byrne, 60; G Cooper (Dragons) for Phillips, 72; J Thomas (Ospreys) for Owen, 72; H Bennett (Ospreys) for R Thomas, 73.

Pacific Islanders: N Ligairi (Fiji); L Fa'atau (Samoa), S Rabeni (Fiji), S Mapasua (Samoa), S Tagicakibau (Samoa); T Pisi (Samoa), M Rauluni (Fiji); J Va'a (Samoa), M Schwalger (Samoa), T Taumoepeau (Tonga), S Raiwalui (Fiji, capt), D Leo (Samoa), S Sititi (Samoa), N Latu (Tonga), H T-Pole (Tonga). Replacements: K Ratuvou (Fiji) for Tagicakibau, 19; E Taione (Tonga) for T-Pole, 51; A Lutui (Tonga) for Schwalger, 58; M Molitika (Tonga) for Leo, 65; C Johnston (Samoa) for Taumoepeau, 68; S Bai (Fiji) for Mapasua, 68; J Poluleuligaga (Samoa) for Rauluni, 74.

Referee: W Barnes (England).

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