‘Déjà vu for Wales’

What the Welsh newspapers are saying ahead of the clash at the Millennium Stadium.

The Boks have arrived in Cardiff after a long and taxing journey from Padova. The weather here in the Welsh capital is much colder than what the players experienced last week, and they will need to train in some wet conditions over the next few days.

The mood in the Bok camp can’t be as gloomy as that in the Vale, though. Wales lost 34-16 to the All Blacks this past Saturday. Once again, they were overtaken by a southern hemisphere opponent in the final 20 minutes of the contest.

The disappointment is well captured on the front page of today’s Western Mail. The picture shows Sam Warburton and his charges at the final whistle, staring at the turf, patently gutted. The paper has described the defeat as ‘another agonising loss’. Underneath the photograph of Warburton and co is a caption that reads: ‘Black and blue Wales hope to end autumn with Boks scalp’.

On the back page of the same paper, lock Alun Wyn Jones has called for an 80-minute performance against the Boks. The writer, Andy Howell, said it was a case of déjà vu last Saturday, with Wales succumbing in the last quarter. Howell relays another quote from Jones, who believes Wales can take heart from the narrow 31-30 loss to the Boks in Nelspruit this June. The writer also confirms that scrumhalf Rhys Webb and wing George North are injury concerns ahead of Saturday’s Test.

In Simon Thomas’s ‘Big Debrief’, the writer laments Wales’ poor scrum and lineout, describing the latter as ‘downright diabolical’. He begins his wrap on the match with: ‘As that great philosopher Basil Fawlty once put it, it’s not the despair that kills you, it’s the hope … that's what it's like to watch Warren Gatland's Wales take on one of the southern hemisphere giants'.

In yet another article by Howell, he notes that Gatland’s combined record against Australia, New Zealand and South Africa is one win in 27 Tests. He criticises Gatland’s substitutions in the recent contest, believing it disrupted the hosts' momentum and ultimately cost them the game.

‘Shell-shocked Wales let another chance slip by …’ is the headline on the front page of the South Wales Echo’s sport supplement. Alun Wyn Jones is shown wearing an expression of disbelief.

The latest edition of the Rugby Paper has run a few quotes from Warren Gatland on their front page. The Wales coach insists his team has the belief to beat southern hemisphere opposition.

‘The first time you beat them, it becomes easier,’ Gatland said, although his one from 27 record suggests otherwise. He added that he could not fault the effort of the players and truly believes that ‘if we do that against South Africa we are good enough to win’.

Inside this edition, veteran writer Peter Jackson says that ‘Wales fluff Buster Douglas moment’. Jackson believes Wales weren’t fit enough to live with the All Blacks. He adds that Wales don’t have the physical or the mental ability to go the full 80 against New Zealand. He ends with ‘some things never change’.

By Jon Cardinelli

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