DISJOINTED WALES BLOWN AWAY BY THE IRISH STORM; Barry John email: firstname.lastname@example.org THE ONE AND ONLY KING.
THE Welsh people have felt the full fury of coastal gales over the last few weeks.
But the Welsh rugby team endured the full force of an Irish hurricane in Dublin yesterday as they were completely blown away by Paul O'Connell's charges.
This game came as a complete shock to me as I am sure it did to many other Welsh fans.
The performance against Italy was accepted as a typical Welsh start to the Six Nations.
Wales played spasmodic rugby but did enough to win the game.
I felt that come an epic encounter like Ireland, when Wales needed to front up, they would be ready for it.
But I am sorry to say this Wales team now no longer represents a viable threat to the big boys in the world.
They might still have a mathematical chance of retaining their Six Nations title.
But based on this display, I can't see many Welsh followers running to the bookies and taking this bet on.
Wales were literally battered from pillar to post by the Irish players.
They also looked very ordinary and one-paced with no drive, urgency or imagination.
It was such a disappointing day because Wales never created anything and the coaches didn't react when this became so highly evident.
The modern game is about introducing replacements and timing is vital.
What baffled me was the late introduction of Justin Tipuric, while James Hook stayed on the replacements bench altogether.
Tipuric was not brought on until the 70th minute and that was too late.
But while you can point the fingers at the coaches, you have to look at the players as well.
Especially because they are so experienced now, full of Lions and Grand Slam winners.
While you can question why two creative influences like Tipuric and Hook weren't included earlier, the personnel on the field for the whole game baffled me.
This was especially evident when Wales were chasing the game in the second-half but kept kicking the ball away.
Rhys Priestland did not have his most effective match, while Mike Phillips - who was yellow carded - offers little now as an attacking force. Wales were also culpable with so many unforced errors. I am not a huge believer in statistics but on this occasion the figures definitely tell the truth.
The turnovers were an embarrassment, the scrum is not really competitive anymore and the lineout was a lottery.
When you consider all of this, Wales were masters of their own downfall. The chances of winning tight games are virtually nil with performances littered with such mistakes.
While it was a massively disappointing display from Wales, you have to applaud the Irish team, magnificently led by Paul O'Connell who had the players inspired from the start.
Lions outside-half Jonny Sexton played an old fashioned game and ran the show. He was well supported by Conor Murray with the half-backs thriving on being on the front foot.
And what a final Six Nations appearance against Wales for the legend Brian O'Driscoll. His contribution was minimal but he would have been highly satisfied.
This match came against the nonsensical backdrop of a so-called row with Gatland over his decision to omit O'Driscoll from the third Lions Test last summer.
It's inevitable people will go on and on about the whys and wherefores of what happened in Australia.
But for me, and no doubt Gatland and Brian himself, it was always water under the bridge.
I just hope Brian's legacy means he is remembered for what he is, a truly great rugby player, rather than this controversy which keeps being raked up. O'Driscoll isn't just one of the finest players we've seen of the modern generation, he is one of the finest in the history of the game. Full stop.
I would certainly have been happy to have had him on my shoulder during the 1970s. In fact, he reminds me so much of Mike Gibson, who did play next to me with the victorious '71 Lions and who is probably the most complete back I have seen.
Brian is very much in that class.
Imagine Ireland having the pair of them together in the centre? That would be some force.
In top level sport you have very good players. Then you have the exceptional ones who make the difference when it matters in the big games.
It is why they are called big game players.
One of the extraordinary things about O'Driscoll, is that in modern rugby, where the hits are huge, the intensity immense, the injuries pretty constant, he has lasted at the top for fully 15 years.
The way he recovered from the huge hit from opposite Scott Williams in the first-half reflected that. O'Driscoll shrugged off the tackle while Williams was forced off the field.
Williams' injury and who faces France now are major questions for Gatland and the two-week gap will provide a lot of food for thought.
It's a huge test for Gatland and his coaching staff now.
There will be a lot of question marks surrounding the make up of the side to face France.
There are not many options and it's difficult to think of alternatives who could make an impact.
But Gatland must look at tinkering with the team.
The front-row has fizzled out and I would not be surprised if Gethin Jenkins now considers announcing his international retirement.
Adam Jones is still a scrummaging rock but is only really there for his experience.
I also would not be surprised if Gatland also starts with Rhys Webb at the expense of Phillips.
That would be a real statement of intent and Gatland needs to show some imagination and daring to put Wales back on track.
Ireland's coach Joe Schmit and Wales' Warren Gatland (right) before kick-off
Wales skipper Sam Warburton is tackled by Tommy O'Donnell of Ireland
Mike Phillips makes a break. The Wales scrum-half was yellow carded on a dismal day in Dublin PICTURE: Huw Evans Agency.
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|Publication:||Wales On Sunday (Cardiff, Wales)|
|Date:||Feb 9, 2014|
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