Howley: Wales must bounce back against All Blacks

Wales interim coach Rob Howley insists the prospect of facing world champions New Zealand can lift the gloom hanging over his team after Friday’s 26-19 loss to Samoa.

Wales may have won the Six Nations this year but are veering towards crisis point after Samoa subjected them to a fifth straight defeat.

That has seen Wales, World Cup semi-finalists this time last year, slump to eighth in the world rankings with the All Blacks due here at the Millennium Stadium next Saturday.

Howley said: “Many of us have been here before and we know what it’s like as players and coaches.

“Over the past 12 months this team has been to a World Cup semi-final and a Grand Slam, we’ve had many highs and now we’re going through a low point. We have to look at ourselves individually and collectively and bounce back.

“Rugby gives you an opportunity to do that and I’ve told the players to look forward to when they’re winning again. We will stick together and we have two good games to come in new Zealand and Australia.”

Ashley Beck gave Wales a 13-6 lead with an interception try on his home debut only for Fa’atoina Autagavaia, George Pisi and Johnny Leota to cross as Samoa evoked memories of their famous World Cup victories over Wales in 1991 and 1999, then as Western Samoa, with a combination of ferocious tackling and clinical finishing.

That was in stark contrast to Wales who failed to put together any sustained pressure due to basic errors and a lack of composure and led to Samoa captain David Lemi branding the European champions as “predictable”.

Lemi said: “We’ve been watching Wales since the World Cup. They used the same tactics in the Six Nations and against Argentina. If you stop their go-forward man then you stop them playing.

“Wales’ strength is in their tight five but we controlled the scrums and lineouts

and their talented backs did not get the ball to play.

“We were bitterly disappointed to lose in the World Cup and this was a bit of pay back.”

Howley responded: “We have changed things so if they (Samoa) want to say we’re predictable then it’s up to them.

“We are disappointed as a coaching team and players. International rugby is about discipline and making the most of opportunities when they come along.

“We were out-performed by a Samoa team able to keep the ball for longer periods than we were, which was the most disappointing aspect. We were not smart enough with the ball.”

Wales lost trio ospreys trio hooker Richard Hibbard (shoulder), fly-half Dan Biggar (shoulder) and lock Ian Evans (knee) before half-time and all three now look set to join the growing casualty list that already includes Adam Jones, Dan Lydiate and Alun Wyn Jones.

Samoa now head to France for next week’s Test in Paris.

Head coach Stephen Betham said: “We will give it our best shot against France. The boys have proved we can achieve our goals. We were not here to make up the numbers, we came to win and try to get in the top eight. The players proved they wanted it.”

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