Saturday 16 December 2017

Howley calls on Welsh flops to 'redeem themselves'

Two unchanged teams face other in Cardiff tomorrow evening but only the Welsh are under pressure to produce change. Stock photo: Sportsfile
Two unchanged teams face other in Cardiff tomorrow evening but only the Welsh are under pressure to produce change. Stock photo: Sportsfile
David Kelly

David Kelly

Two unchanged teams face other in Cardiff tomorrow evening but only the Welsh are under pressure to produce change.

Ireland, palpably in better form and probably in fitter fettle, must be confident that if they produce their optimum, they must prevail.

Wales, so uncertain, have yet to reach their peak for any consistent length of time and appear a dwindling force.

They face the prospect of not only a third successive defeat, but a second in a row in front of their own fans, for whom the prospect of defeat is repugnant to their very sense of national identity.

Hence the sense in the Valleys, a desperate one perhaps, that the imminent self-immolation of an entire nation may be enough to goad one of those occasional, characteristically cathartic displays from the men in red.

Temptation

"As coaches, we discussed giving the opportunity to the side to redeem themselves for the second-half performance against Scotland," said interim head coach Robert Howley, after resisting the temptation to introduce fit-again Luke Charteris and Toby Faletau.

Wales were in touch against the Triple Crown-chasing Scots last time out before fading miserably in the second half.

Read more: Longest man hungry ahead of the longest day

"There were too many unforced errors in our game from 40 to 55 minutes, after a really dominant first half, on the back of one of the best games in the Six Nations against England," added Howley.

"I know things have been said in the week about some players' performance. But as a coaching team, we have talked about the opportunity just to go out again.

"There's an opportunity to go out at home in front of our own supporters and deliver a performance which the players are proud of. It will be a huge game."

Read more: Lyttle eager to continue learning from Piutau

Howley's decision to stick with a losing side has raised the stakes as a feral public grow increasingly impatient with a run of just four wins in 12 matches.

"Luke and Toby played against Wasps on Saturday, which means a six-day turnaround to our game on Friday," said Howley.

"So, because of that lack of preparation time, it's common sense for them to be on the bench and come on if needed."

Irish Independent

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