Wales ponder deficiencies

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Australia 42 Wales 3

Wales fly home from Australia today with the tour manager Terry Cobner admitting they are still stuck firmly "in the Second Division of the world game" after losing the second Test against Australia in Sydney on Saturday night.

"We came out here to find out where we stand and I am afraid it is not very high," he said. "But I am still glad we came and the big positive is that the party has restored the reputation of Welsh rugby in Australia."

Five years after the last Welsh tourists returned from Down Under in disgrace, a laughing stock on the field and public brawlers off the pitch, Jonathan Humphreys, the captain, and his team-mates can at least hold their heads high. They did lose the series 2-0, but there was no surrender this time. "They gave it all they had, they played with great spirit," Cobner said.

Cobner, as director of rugby, is anxious to address the imminent Welsh Rugby Union annual meeting to emphasise "we have to make the national interest paramount. The damning thing will be if we go back and nothing changes - we have to have a tier between club and international rugby.

"We have been at the cross-roads for 20 years and if we don't take this opportunity leading up to the 1999 World Cup who knows where we will end up."

However, the public image of the state of the Welsh international game on show in the second Test was of a side of plenty of guts in defence but deficient in the skills of scoring.

That is not to say progress has not been made. Australian-born Alex Evans, back home after coaching Wales at last year's World Cup, was adamant that "there has been a hell of an improvement, I thought the forwards were superb and the first half was very close."

But after restricting the Wallabies to only an injury-time first-half try, scored by the flanker Owen Finegan courtesy of brilliant play from the full-back Matthew Burke, Wales were rolled over by the relentless waves of Wallaby attacks. All Wales had to show for a brave display was a 25th-minute Neil Jenkins penalty goal as their lowly world standing was painfully confirmed.

Australia: Tries O Finegan, M Burke, J Roff, M Foley, G Morgan, T Horan; Conversions M Burke 2, J Eales; Penalties M Burke 2. Wales: Penalty N Jenkins.

AUSTRALIA: M Burke; D Campese, J Roff, T Horan, B Tune; P Howard, S Payne; R Harry, M Caputo, E McKenzie, G Morgan, J Eales (capt), O Finegan, M Brial, D Wilson. Replacements: S Larkham for B Tune, 1-8 and M Burke, 60; D Crowley for E McKenzie, 11; M Foley for M Caputo, 45; D Manu for M Foley, 70.

WALES: W Proctor; I Evans (both Llanelli), G Thomas (Pontypridd), N Davies (Llanelli), S Hill (Cardiff); N Jenkins (Pontypridd), R Howley (Bridgend); C Loader (Swansea), J Humphreys (Cardiff, capt), L Mustoe (Cardiff), G Llewellyn (Harlequins), D Jones (Cardiff), A Gibbs (Newbridge), H Taylor (Cardiff), S Williams (Neath). Replacements: A Lewis (Cardiff) for C Loader 22-34; D James (Bridgend) for N Davies, 77.

Referee: C Hawke (NZ).

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