Wales' lack of potency on attack a real concern
LIAM NAPIER IN CARDIFF
The Welsh attack is floundering and there are no clear ways to fix it.
In five short months, Wales' reputation as the northern hemisphere's most enterprising side has come to a grinding halt.
On top of five consecutive losses, they're enduring an unpleasant dry run of tries.
In the past two tests, where they suffered shock defeats to Argentina and Samoa, Wales managed just one opportunistic try - from an intercept.
Men like damaging second-five Jamie Roberts and huge winger George North have been non-existent threats.
"Cleary we want to score as many tries as possible but we have found it difficult these last two games," Welsh defence coach Shaun Edwards conceded.
That wouldn't be causing such concern if their defence was holding firm, but they've also shipped five tries, including three against Samoa last week
Hopes of reviving their attacking guile were dented further by the absence of former first five-eighth turned Wales skills coach Neil Jenkins, who has endured a family bereavement.
"Jenks is not here today ... we're much better when the five [coaching staff] of us are all together," Edwards said.
Problems at No 10 haven't helped the stuttering Welsh attack.
Rhys Priestland was meant to be a star in the making after showing promise during last year's World Cup, but his fitness and form has dipped dramatically and replacement pivot Dan Biggar was injured by against Samoa.
That leaves returning coach Warren Gatland pondering the prospect of throwing his third-choice playmaker, James Hook, into the crucial role against the All Blacks this week.
Wales wing Alex Cuthbert is clearly not enjoying his lack of action and he wants the underperforming forward pack, which was out-muscled by the Pacific Islanders, to front up this week.
"Priestland getting injured didn't help. We know what he can do but he's not on fire like he usually is," Cuthbert said.
"It's quite hard to put our finger on it. We're obviously lacking a bit of direction and creativity out wide. Teams are maybe working us out easier than before, but we've got some class players."
There are also concerns about the dwindling form of captain Sam Warburton.
The openside flanker was another to peak at last year's pinnacle tournament but sharply declining performances saw him dropped to the bench with the bulkier Justin Tipuric handed the starting No 7 jersey against Samoa last week.
To compound things in the loose the absence of injured star Dan Lydiate (broken ankle) is being acutely felt.
The only boost for the Welsh today came from centre Jonathan Davies returning to training.
Davies has been carrying a groin problem but may be whisked back into the side to spark the attack if he can prove his fitness this week.
"Jonathan Davies is a massive player for us, hopefully he can come back and play this week," Edwards said.
All Blacks assistant coach Ian Foster attempted to downplay the poor Welsh attack.
"We're expecting them to target this game as a big game for them," he said.
"When you've lost a couple games like this can be ideal because it makes sure the focus is very sharp."
- Fairfax Media
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