Gatland facing a tough challenge
John Taylor
November 24, 2007

"There are no powerful driving forwards in the front five - and only Alun-Wyn Jones looks to have the potential to be able to compete at the highest level." John Taylor delivers his verdict on Wales

Warren Gatland was watching from the stands and will be congratulating himself for deciding not to take up his post as Wales's new national coach until the new year.

Nobody would have blamed him for this defeat but a 34-12, five try hammering by a side not renowned for its cutting edge is definitely not the first thing you want on your CV.

The Boks were powerful, athletic and committed. It was more than enough - men against boys.

'Licence to thrill' was the headline in the Western Mail, Wales's national newspaper, when the Welsh team was announced - Gavin Henson and James Hook were being billed as the mid-field dream team.

But this was a reality check - there were more spills than thrills as Wales again attempted the impossible.

Ex-coach, Gareth Jenkins loved to talk up the 'Welsh Way' but you cannot attempt to play with attacking flair when you have no platform - that is why he is the ex-coach.

After half an hour South Africa (without half a dozen key World Cup players) had scored three tries and were in party mood.

Wales came back with a couple of scores but by that time the Springboks were concentrating on Christmas shopping safe in the knowledge they could win in second gear.

Analysing the Welsh problem is simple; doing something about it is more difficult. The Welsh forwards - especially the front five - are woefully weak but they are the best available so there is no quick fix.

They go into matches knowing the best they can hope for is parity at the scrum - they cannot dominate even against the likes of Canada and Fiji - and the lineout is hit and miss so there is no guarantee of good set piece possession as a starting point.

There are no powerful driving forwards in the front five - and only Alun-Wyn Jones looks to have the potential to be able to compete at the highest level.

The back row offers more but there is no 'go forward' ball so they are constantly trying to attack off the back foot - hence the number of turnovers.

Wales caught the rest of the northern hemisphere on the hop when they kept the ball alive so successfully in contact situations back in 2005 but they were soon sussed.

Now there is only one way forward - they have to have a greater physical presence.

Behind the scrum there is some promise - Henson showed enough strength and sleight of hand to suggest he might yet fulfil his potential - but they cannot live off scraps.

Gatland is a pragmatist and a disciplinarian - just what Wales need - forget the licence to thrill until we have some substance to our rugby.

I'm sure he knew he was taking on a massive challenge. Now it is confirmed.

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