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WALES ARE IN A 'PIT OF SELF-DOUBT'.

Byline: By Simon Roberts Wales on Sunday

You could never imagine Justin Harrison being wracked by self-doubt, on or off the rugby field.

But the former Wallaby hardman, infamously branded a 'plank and a plod' by Austin Healey during the 2001 Lions tour, believes Wales suffer from exactly that problem.

The Ulster lineout ace, part of the Australia side beaten by England in the 2003 World Cup final in Sydney, pulls no punches in his assessment of Wales' dramatic fall from grace.

And he believes Wales have fallen far short of their capabilities as they prepare for Saturday's crunch Pool B clash with Australia - particularly the two summer defeats Down Under.

"Wales have fallen into a pit of self-doubt," said Harrison, who won 34 caps in the green and gold since making his debut against the Lions.

"They have been probably the most disappointing side of all the nations over the last season.

"They developed a really strong style of play based on what suited their abilities in 2005 and they took a squad to Australia which appears to have bred this tangible self-doubt.

"It was the wrong selection for a country like Wales trying to get things right for a World Cup campaign.

"All it did was breed self-doubt and exposed a mental weakness."

The 33-year-old makes no bones about his opinion that Wales have lost their way since their Grand Slam success in 2005.

"Welsh teams have always played great attacking rugby because it suits them and their temperament," said Harrison.

"They have proved it in the Magners League and the Anglo-Welsh Cup. Now the national side is not a reflection of what Wales are good at, or of their performances outside the Test arena.

"I don't know what happened, but they have lost their direction and are now trying to do too many things at once.

"They are not concentrating on what made them a dangerous side, but teams losing their way is nothing new. It's what sport is all about."

Harrison also believes that the Wallabies, the only side to have won two World Cups - in 1991 and 1999 - are coming to the boil nicely.

"Australia, as in 2003, aren't getting much attention and people aren't giving us much of a chance," said Harrison.

"We like it that way. The Wallabies have proved they can always handle the pressure of a World Cup."

Harrison gives a revealing insight into the Aussie mindset and what type of coaches and players you need at a World Cup.

"The World Cup is such a cauldron and you have to be able to deal with the unexpected," said Harrison.

"Something is going to go wrong and it's how you deal with that. You want people who will get stuck in and put things right.

"You have to have players who can galvanise other players and players who don't fear failure or success." Last four meetings

2007 Australia 31 Wales 0 (Brisbane)

2007 Australia 29 Wales 23 (Sydney)

2006 Wales 29 Australia 29 (Cardiff)

2005 Wales 24 Australia 22 (Cardiff)
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:Wales On Sunday (Cardiff, Wales)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Sep 9, 2007
Words:509
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