Will Wales 'pain' lead to World Cup gain?
SPOTLIGHT: Wales assistant coach Neil Jenkins believes his team’s current woes could end up helping them by the time they travel to the World Cup in France later this year.
Two years after winning the Six Nations title, Wales are enduring a woeful run of results and defeat by Italy in Rome this Saturday may see them finish bottom, with a first wooden spoon since 2003.
The Welsh have lost three successive matches since Warren Gatland returned for a second spell as coach.
Prior to that, Gatland’s Wales predecessor Wayne Pivac managed a mere three wins from his last 12 Tests.
Wales have just five fixtures left before the World Cup – Italy and France away in the Six Nations, followed by tournament warm-up appointments with England (twice) and world champions South Africa.
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#ICYMI: Wales star Taulupe Faletau said it was “hard to give your all” against the backdrop of the contractual dispute that has engulfed Welsh rugby in recent weeks. 👇#SixNations #Wales #Italy #ITAvWAL https://t.co/6KIbpkv1eH
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Gatland’s men have a tricky World Cup opener against Fiji in Bordeaux on September 10.
The Pacific islanders were responsible for the last time Wales failed to reach the knockout stages of a World Cup courtesy of a 38-34 win in 2007.
Wales’ pool rivals this time around also include Australia and Georgia, who stunned Wales 13-12 in Cardiff in November.
Their recent woes have left some pundits fearing a repeat of 16 years ago, with then Wales coach Gareth Jenkins sacked the day after the Fiji defeat at the World Cup.
Neil Jenkins, however, insisted Wednesday: “I think the reality is we probably felt there was going to be some pain about us at this moment in time. We are certainly feeling that.
“But we have until September to get ourselves right, and I believe we can do that. I would like to think we will be going through the gears from now until then to give us a good chance at a World Cup.”
The more immediate task for Wales is to overcome an Italy side who ended a run of 36 consecutive Six Nations defeats with a 22-21 triumph in Cardiff last year.
Italy, like Wales, have yet to enjoy a Championship win this season but the Azzurri have impressed in losses to reigning champions France and leaders Ireland.
“We are playing a very, very good side and we need to be at full tilt, there is no doubting that, otherwise we could come unstuck,” Jenkins said.