Howley to blame for Cuthbert flak says Williams

Tue, 14 Feb 2017 07:43

REACTION: Wales great Shane Williams said interim coach Rob Howley needed to stop picking Alex Cuthbert in "blind hope" after the wing came under fire for England's match-winning try in Saturday's dramatic Six Nations clash in Cardiff.

There were just over four minutes left when, with Wales leading 16-14, centre Jonathan Davies's clearing kick went downfield rather than into touch.

That allowed England to launch a counter-attack which ended with Elliot Daly, shown the outside by Cuthbert, beating his opposing wing for a try in the corner.

Owen Farrell converted to make it 21-16, the final score as Grand Slam champions England recorded their 16th successive Test victory.

While Davies received some flak on social media, it was Cuthbert, only called into Saturday's side an hour before kick-off after George North failed a fitness test on a leg injury, who bore the brunt of a Twitter storm.

The 26-year-old Cuthbert, a veteran of 45 Tests for Wales, was already unpopular with a section of Welsh fans who blamed him for the team's 2015 World Cup quarterfinal defeat by South Africa when he was out of position defensively for the match-clinching try scored by Springboks scrum-half Fourie du Preez.

"My feeling is the coaches have to take responsibility for the situation," Williams wrote in his South Wales Evening Post column. "I feel for the guy. He is under incredible scrutiny and any mistakes he makes are magnified. Knowing that, he must take the field feeling tense and that is not good for any sportsman."

Four years ago, Cuthbert scored two tries in a Wales record 30-3 win over England in Cardiff that saw his side take the Six Nations title.

But that counts for little with his critics, although the Cardiff Blues flyer has rarely hit such form since that memorable match.

Williams, however, said it was former Wales scrumhalf Howley, the "interim coach" of Wales while Warren Gatland is seconded to the British and Irish Lions, who ought to carry the can for any criticism coming Cuthbert's way. 

"A player is not going to turn down the opportunity to play for his country, but the best thing if he isn't playing well, and is receiving a roasting in the press and on social media, is for him to go back to his club, find some serious form and get his confidence back," explained Williams, Wales's all-time leading try-scorer and himself a former wing.

"The way forward is not to keep picking him in the blind hope that everything will magically click back into place. It rarely works like that. 

"Imagine how Cuthbert feels having to deal with a torrent of abuse after every game.

"Continually selecting him at Test level doesn't exactly send out a great message to other wings in Wales, either.

"Steff Evans has looked dangerous this season... but how must Evans feel after being passed over for the England game. Rob Howley needs to take control of the situation."

Agence France-Presse

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