Should the Welsh have won against Wallabies?
For many rugby fans around the world, the Wallabies’ loss to Scotland consolidated a growing popular view that Wales were going to teach the Aussies a lesson.
After all, the Welsh had ruthlessly beaten the Scottish only a few months earlier on their way to becoming Grand Slam Six Nations Champions.
Australia, meanwhile had… well, we won’t go there.
Regardless of whether the weather was to blame, many of those poor Aussies – who were having to back up from that match – would now be weighed down by the tiny bits of Strokosch, Rennie and Barclay that had been embedded in their flesh from the brutal Scottish tackling.
It was gospel that either their own poor form or the suicidal scheduling had killed the slight chance that the Wallabies would defeat Wales.
Indeed most thinkers of the game from the north had been claiming that for the first time since the English of 2003, a European team had all the stars and Australia had all the weaknesses.
From one to 15 the Welshman had it over the Wallabies.
A stronger tight five, a better balanced back row, a more creative nine and 10, a higher calibre of centres, a classier fullback.
To cap it off, Wales had two of the biggest, fastest wingers the game is ever likely to see.
So what happened?
The loss to Scotland was simply a poetically just rugby god intervention.
As the heavens opened up and that storm came in, the rugby gods were sending John O’Neill a message: “Don’t mess with the rugby gods, John! Thou shalt not treat the proud Scots with arrogant contempt.
“And thou shalt not squeeze in extra games to make money, nor risk player burnout four days before the series involving the Tri and Six Nations champions.
“Thou shalt be smitten by thy smiting free press, John!”
The fact that Scotland beat Australia due to a ludicrous schedule was compounded by even more ludicrous weather.
This should have provided us all with a greater sense that the Wallabies would destroy the Welsh in a vengeful performance.
It didn’t, and many wrote the Wallabies off because, of course, the Welsh have a better team.
Don’t get me wrong, they probably do. But that team didn’t line-up on Saturday.
As we all know Jamie Roberts, arguably the best 12 in the game, is not touring, and is simply a loss no one can afford.
Their two starting locks from the Six Nations campaign were unavailable due to weddings. In Wyn-Jones’ case this has seen him miss training and hence saw him frustratingly relegated to the bench.
In Ian Evans’ case this has resulted in him entering into lawful matrimony and being relegated to a life of frustration.
I think most pundits knew of this, but did they know that the player of the Six Nations, Mr Lydiate himself, is essentially playing on one leg?
He has opted to have his much-needed ankle surgery at the end of the tour.
While he is still on top of many work-rate statistics categories, he is a shadow of his influential self.
Similarly, their splendid number 13 Davies is also putting off surgery on a troublesome hernia.
He looked like he was enjoying running as much as most of us enjoyed having to stare into the sun.
Their coach had also been amiss due to injury, and to top this off they decided to play a rookie hooker, and to leave Hook on the bench when he should have been playing at 12.
Things were not looking good, and as George North limped off I thought to myself ‘we were just meant to win this’.
Of course we were not just meant to win this at all. We won because Genia had a blinder. We won because Pocock was immense.
And we won because everybody else did their job at a faster pace than what the Welsh are used to.
I now expect Wales to be stronger.
I expect Hook to play at number 12 to give them width, and I expect Wyn-Jones and Evans to resume their partnership in the second row.
I expect the entire team to be prepared to play the game at the tempo of the Wallabies.
I believe Wales should send Lydiate and Davies home to have their surgery, and replace them with capable and fully-fit replacements. I believe they should do the same with George North, if indeed his injury is serious.
I expect that they won’t and will all play regardless.
A full-strength Wales should have beaten a depleted Wallabies on Saturday. But, like us, they couldn’t and didn’t put out their full-strength side.
All the experts should have realised that all bets were off.
I think all bets should be off for the rest of the series, with the only sure thing being that anything can happen between two very even teams.
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