SHAUN Edwards has fired back at 100-cap former Wales skipper Gareth Thomas over his claim that Welsh players are guilty of a "pure lack of effort".
Last Friday's defeat against Samoa, which saw Rob Howley's side physically dominated, followed a setback against Argentina the previous weekend, leaving the national team on a five-game losing run.
They play New Zealand on Saturday, a country Wales haven't beaten for 59 years, and celebrated warrior Thomas raged on TV that Wales had failed to match Samoa in terms what they put into the game.
"To me, it was just pure lack of effort," said Thomas, the 2005 Grand Slam captain.
"You have to try as hard as the opposition, at least, if not harder to beat them.
"At the contact area, the gain- line, the Samoans were coming into the rucks and trying harder. They wanted the ball more and that's what was disappointing.
"When I was playing, when I was young, in my first 10, 15 caps, you would go into the changing room when things were going wrong and you would have the Gareth Llewellyns, the Mike Halls and the Neil Jenkins', senior players who would be saying: 'Okay, let me control this game'.
"When Wales came out against Samoa in the second half, that's what I wanted to see, our big players saying: 'Okay, I have had enough caps, I have been in this situation before, let me take control of the game; follow me'.
"I just didn't see that."
Thomas, known to one and all as Alfie, continued: "The players with experience, Gethin Jenkins, Sam Warburton, Jamie Roberts, the players who have put themselves in a position to be leaders in this team, need to stand up.
"They need to say 'I'm taking the ball, give me the ball, run at me, I'll show you how to tackle; get behind me, support me, follow me' instead of kind of saying, 'I'm this, I'm that, I can do what I want'.
"You can't. You put your jersey on, you went out there and you played with a bit of hywl and respect."
None of which struck too much of a chord with Edwards, Wales's defence coach, in his hey-day one of the most fearless players ever to have played either code of rugby.
Asked directly what he felt about Thomas's "lack of effort" barb, he replied: "If he can show me specifics of the game then I would look at it and decide, but I wouldn't agree with that.
"Personally, I felt it was two teams that were pretty equally matched, as they were at the World Cup when we got the better of a one-score game.
"On Friday Samoa were a little bit better than at the World Cup because they had the tight-head prop who plays for the champions of France and they had the tight-head prop who plays for the champions of England.
"That's why they have improved while we have slightly gone back a bit because of injuries.
"That's why they won a one-score game this time."
Jonathan Davies is expected to take a full part in training this week after missing the first two games of the autumn with a groin problem.
"It'll be big for the squad if Jon is fit," said hooker Ken Owens.
"He's a great player, someone who's been a go-to man for the Scarlets and Wales.
"He puts pressure on the opposition because of the way he defends, while in attack he is powerful and skilful. If he's back it will be a huge boost."