'Welsh rugby is in despair and disarray' - John

20:13, Nov 18 2012
FORM FALTER: Warren Gatland admits some players are struggling to cope with the media criticism of their performance.

Welsh great Barry John fears the game in the proud rugby nation is in disarray and doesn't expect coach Warren Gatland to create a miracle on his return against the All Blacks this weekend.

After three tight losses to the Wallabies in Australia in June, Wales have lost to Argentina and Samoa on successive weekends in Cardiff.

It has the Welsh public reeling and the prospect of facing the world champion All Blacks brings with it the almost certainty of a sixth consecutive defeat.

This for a side that are the Six Nations champions, Grand Slam winners and who finished fourth at last year's World Cup.

John, the goalkicking great from the 1970s, was highly critical of the Welsh in his latest column for WalesOnline.

A mixture of health and Lions commitments have limited Kiwi Gatland's involvement over the last five defeats with his deputy Rob Howley in charge.


"It is a case of galvanising the squad but even the best coaches in the world will find things insurmountable," John wrote.

"The record and recent performances shows Wales can't beat New Zealand and it will be a massive damage limitation exercise.

"Warren Gatland is coming back to lead the squad for the two big games.

"I am glad because he offers the only hope that can salvage something from two difficult weeks. But even Warren, who has done so well with winning Grand Slams and with selection for the Lions, will struggle to turn things around.

"How he picks the players up after this last fortnight, I don't know."

The latest losses have been a disaster for the Welsh with the 2015 World Cup draw looming. They have dropped to No 8 on the rankings and risk getting a nightmare pool.

"Welsh rugby is in despair and disarray. Put simply, we are facing a very serious situation," continued John.

"Even though Wales have won three Grand Slams in the last seven years, they are nowhere near the top table of world rugby and the last two weeks have proved that.

"People will point to the 1980s when Welsh rugby went through difficult times and came through it.

"But I can't remember anything as acute as the decline of this Welsh team in a matter of a few months. From Grand Slam champions to losing five on the bounce looks bad.

"Losing is one thing but there is no recognisable team there anymore and things are disintegrating in front of our eyes.

"Desperate times brings desperate measures but there are none available. You can't bring in a new squad because they have the best players at their disposal.

"It is pointless at this moment pointing fingers at players or coaches because now is the time collectively coming together with the mighty All Blacks coming to town this week.

"The mind boggles with the likes of Dan Carter firing bullets from all over the place.

"It is quite frightening. One thing is certain, they will show us no mercy."

John says everyone will watch with interest to see if Gatland can turn things around, or at least lift the performance of a side, ravaged by injuries, that has looked a shadow of itself.

"Howley did well in Australia and Wales deserved to win at least one of the matches. But Wales have come back this season and the players seem confused.

"We now have a new man at the helm in Gatland for the next two weeks and we will wait to see if that means a different style.

"The Welsh Rugby Union's decision to allow Gatland to go away and coach the Lions will be under the spotlight. But the die has been cast and we knew what the situation is.

"The spotlight after the autumn series will be on Howley and whether he can lead Wales into the Six Nations when Gatland goes back to the Lions.

"Howley will be looking at himself in the mirror and wondering if he can extract more from the squad he has got.

"He is the only person who can answer that particular question and I am sure he will do some soul searching before the Six Nations.

"His position will come under scrutiny at the end of the campaign with questions raised about how authoritative he is and whether he commands the players respect."