Nothing I’ve seen so far during this Autumn series has given me any confidence about Wales’s chances in next year’s Rugby World Cup. A narrow-ish defeat to Australia. A second half capitulation against South Africa, and a humiliating draw with Fiji. We’re missing a decision-maker in the three quarters (you all know which perma-tanned ballroom-dancing ponce I’m referring to), and whenever Gethin Jenkins is absent, our back row are cruelly exposed as a bunch of part-time show-boaters. But in spite of these deep flaws, I still believe we can beat New Zealand tomorrow.
As Andy Howell might say, “let’s look at the facts.” Shall we start with a head-to-head?
Lee Byrne vs. Mils Muliaina: Grand Slammer & British Lion vs. ever present at the last two Kiwi world cup chokes
George North vs. Isaia Toeava: Man-child-mountain vs. who?
Tom Shanklin vs. Conrad Smith: Double Grand Slam winner & Lion vs. double world cup choker
James Hook vs. Sonny Bill Williams: Double Grand Slam winner, Lion & French Fancy vs. show-boating big-handed leaguey
Tom James vs. Hosea Gear: Run Forrest Run vs. Run Forrest Run
Stephen Jones vs. Dan Carter: Game Manager vs. Armchair General
Mike Phillips vs. Jimmy Cowan: Crazy Horse vs. Why The Long Face
Gethin Jenkins vs. Tony Woodcock: Peerless vs. Uncle Buck
Matthew Rees vs. Kevan Mealamu: Head Boy vs. Head Butt
Adam Jones vs. Owen Franks: Beastmaster vs. Spanked
Bradley Davies vs. Brad Thorn: Madly vs. Sadly
Alun-Wyn Jones vs. Sam Whitelock: Great Lock vs. Shite Lock
Dan Lydiate vs. Jerome Kaino: Young Guns go for it
Sam Warburton vs. Richie McCaw: Servant vs. Master
Ryan Jones vs. Kieran Reed: Ryan The Lion vs. Reed ‘em and weep
So by my reckoning, Wales have superiority in 10 positions on the pitch, we’re evenly matched in two positions and NZ are only top dogs in three positions (OK, two of those are in the back row, probably the crucial area).
So Wales will win. It’ll be close. Within a score. Our strong tight five and experienced half-backs will give us a platform. All we need is the mental strength to front up to the All Blacks. Every breakdown will be a contest we must win, and it can be done. We need to use our brains.