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Our attack is non-existent

By South Wales Evening Post  |  Posted: November 23, 2012

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IN April, I bought tickets for myself and my boys for tomorrow's match against the All Blacks with the genuine belief that this might be our day.

The same side who could have won the World Cup on New Zealand soil had just claimed another Grand Slam and were a team very much in the ascendancy.

Fast forward seven months and Wales's decline has been astonishing.

Couple that with New Zealand's hugely impressive Rugby Championship triumph and the rugby they have already brought to this northern hemisphere tour and Warren Gatland's men will take the field tomorrow with few people giving them any hope of ending those 59 years of hurt.

On the evidence of the autumn defeats against Argentina and Samoa, Wales's attacking game has become non-existent.

We have not created anything in two matches — not counting Ashley Beck's interception — our confidence is shot and our set-piece is creaking.

Samoa were deserved victors last weekend.

They outplayed and out-muscled us and showed greater hunger, greater ambition and greater intensity.

I don't buy Shaun Edwards's comments that it was a one-score game just like the World Cup pool match in Hamilton, and I don't buy the argument that the struggles in the regional game are now starting to have an impact.

Our regions weren't exactly in great shape when we made the World Cup semi-finals or when we won the Grand Slams in 2005, 2008 and earlier this year.

Plenty of players who have pulled on the Wales jersey have been involved in disappointing performances, but I don't recall a time when the decline has been so noticeable.

I don't want to be a merchant of doom here, but I can't think of one area where we match New Zealand going in to tomorrow's Test.

The return of Jonathan Davies in the centre is welcome, but he hasn't had any rugby since the start of October and we shouldn't heap too much expectation on him turning things around behind the scrum.

The big selection call has been at loose-head prop where Paul James, for the first time in his career, is picked ahead of Gethin Jenkins. It is a big moment for the former Osprey.

The other big call is at ten where Gatland has again displayed his faith in Rhys Priestland.

It is all very well Gatland backing the Scarlet to the hilt and saying he will come good, but he didn't have a great Six Nations and at the moment just looks to be happy taking the safe option.

Certainly, players have played far better than Priestland and been dropped from the side.

There also appears a stubbornness from the Wales management not to give James Hook the reins.

I can't comment fully on Hook's form in France because I haven't seen a huge amount of him at Perpignan.

And that is probably counting against him — the old 'out of sight, out of mind' philosophy.

It won't help Priestland's cause that opposing him tomorrow will be the best in the business, Dan Carter.

Saying that, playing against world-class players like Carter and Richie McCaw will lift Wales. It will be easier for them to put their bodies on the line and no doubt each Welsh player will be right up for this game.

It may be a case of clutching at straws here, but who knows? Things could snap back into place as quickly as they have unravelled; add the Gatland factor and maybe New Zealand, for all their professionalism, might see this as a bit of a walk in the park.

But in all honesty, I can't see that happening.

The real fear is that the All Blacks will pile on the misery and things will go from bad to worse.

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