The place does Welsh rugby go from right here? It has been an everyday query in latest instances and is pertinent once more after one other disastrous week.
The game in Wales made headlines for the improper causes with the nationwide squad threatening to strike in opposition to England over contract points.
Such drastic motion was averted however, given the preparation, Warren Gatland’s males had been maybe predictably overpowered and outclassed in a 20-10 defeat in opposition to Steve Borthwick’s facet.
As Wales prop up the Six Nations desk, we marvel how it’s got up to now.
Extra importantly, what’s the method out of this newest and maybe most damaging Welsh rugby disaster?
Historical past boys
Details and figures typically don’t inform the story. On this state of affairs, although, they do.
Let’s lay out some damning Welsh rugby statistics.
The England loss was a twelfth in 15 matches, a run stretching again to Wayne Pivac’s period.
It was the third successive Six Nations defeat, making this Wales’ worst begin within the event since 2007.
Wales haven’t been whitewashed since Steve Hansen’s class of 2003 suffered that destiny, however a repeat is now a practical prospect.
Wales journey to play Italy in Rome for the potential Wood Spoon decider on 11 March earlier than dealing with France in Paris seven days later.
England emulated Eire in reaching their greatest successful margin in opposition to Wales since 2003, whereas Scotland compiled a report 35-7 win within the Murrayfield match.
That is additionally the primary yr that Wales haven’t received a house Six Nations match throughout a event since 2003.
Wales have now dropped to tenth on this planet rankings after beforehand occupying this place in 2007 and 2013.
Subsequent month they may fall out of the highest 10 for the primary time. Grim studying throughout the board.
In Gatland’s first stint in cost, between 2007 and 2019, you might often recognise what his facet regarded like and represented.
There was not all the time the success individuals selectively bear in mind, however you knew the roughly personnel he was selecting reinvented a number of sides.
Judging by his three choices since returning, Gatland is trying to find his strongest facet, or maybe extra importantly, the staff he needs to subject within the World Cup opening sport in opposition to Fiji in September.
What we now have witnessed is a mixture and match, as Gatland balances over-30s like Ken Owens, Alun Wyn Jones, Dan Biggar, Justin Tipuric, Taulupe Faletau, George North, Liam Williams and Leigh Halfpenny with early 20-somethings Christ Tshiunza, Dafydd Jenkins, Tommy Reffell, Jac Morgan, Joe Hawkins and Mason Grady. There’s nothing a lot within the in-between age bracket.
5 alterations from Eire to Scotland and 9 extra adjustments for the England encounter display Gatland remains to be on the lookout for his first-choice line-up.
His post-match feedback after England counsel he’ll search for cohesion and continuity moderately than experimentation in opposition to Italy.
The id disaster shouldn’t be restricted to enjoying personnel, with the teaching appointments additionally beneath scrutiny.
The acquainted figures of Rob Howley, whose reappointment was blocked by the Welsh Rugby Union (WRU) board, and Shaun Edwards are not alongside Gatland.
He has introduced in a brand new defence coach in Mike Forshaw, a person he had by no means met earlier than, with Wales conceding 12 tries in three video games.
Underneath new assault coach Alex King, Wales have managed solely three tries in three video games, together with an interception effort and a rating from a rolling maul.
Model of play and techniques are additionally beneath scrutiny. The previous ‘Warrenball’ time period, used to explain Wales’ model of play in Gatland’s first reign, used to irk the New Zealander, however it was primarily based on massive ball-carrying backs like Jamie Roberts getting the facet throughout the gainline, with the game-plan creating from there.
Wales’ kicking techniques in opposition to England, the place they usually gave full-back Freddie Steward possession, have come beneath scrutiny.
The techniques appeared improper and the lack to vary them on the sector regarding.
It was all the time going to be a raffle for Gatland when he determined to return for a second Wales spell by changing fellow countryman Pivac in December 2022.
Gatland’s standing was assured following his preliminary 12-year stint in Wales, which included three Grand Slams, 4 Six Nations titles and two World Cup semi-final appearances.
Welsh rugby was in disarray when Gatland returned on the finish of final yr and it has not improved since.
Now he has misplaced three successive Six Nations matches for the primary time as Wales coach and is staring down the barrel of a event whitewash.
Borthwick adopted Eire chief Andy Farrell and Scotland head coach Gregor Townsend in getting the higher of their former British and Irish Lions boss.
So for all his trophies and Lions success, Gatland has issues.
Reviving this struggling Wales staff forward of the World Cup later this yr would maybe mark his biggest achievement.
Gatland has repeatedly said he believes he can remodel the facet with the couple of months he has with them earlier than the worldwide event. There will definitely be a whole lot of work to do.
The England defeat was maybe inevitable given the troubled build-up, with concessions made on each side to make sure the match went forward.
Main long-term points stay surrounding the skilled sport in Wales and the way forward for its regional gamers.
A freeze has been placed on providing participant contracts, with uncertainty round gamers’ long-term futures as greater than 70 discover themselves with out offers past this season.
Negotiations have been ongoing with Cardiff, Dragons, Ospreys and Scarlets over a brand new six-year funding framework, with the areas given official documentation final week.
Wales’ gamers had been advised they are going to be provided new offers subsequent week, with appearing WRU chief government Nigel Walker saying he’ll hold the four regions’ “feet to the fire” if that doesn’t occur.
Ken Owens is likely one of the few figures to emerge with credit score from Welsh rugby’s newest sorry saga, the captain having proved pivotal within the gamers’ negotiations.
Owens spoke of everyone working collectively to make sure Welsh rugby didn’t grow to be a laughing inventory once more.
Whether or not Walker’s feedback, made on Saturday in entrance of thousands and thousands of individuals on nationwide tv, will inflame the fractious relationship between the WRU and areas stays to be seen.
Walker has proved a beacon of contrition since moving into his interim position following the resignation of Steve Phillips.
He has apologised to gamers and former WRU staff who’ve accused the governing physique of getting a poisonous and sexist tradition, claims being investigated by an impartial taskforce.
Walker would require that diplomatic strategy as soon as extra with the small matter of a rare common assembly to come back on 26 March, at which main governance change shall be on the agenda.
Wales’ final Six Nations whitewash was adopted by the regional rugby revolution. Whether or not comparable seismic change occurs within the home sport any time quickly stays to be seen.
Earlier than all that, Wales desperately want to assert a win from someplace, but type suggests Italy would be the favourites on the Stadio Olimpico.
They pushed Eire and France shut in Rome however would all the time have focused Wales’ go to as they seek for a primary dwelling Six Nations win since 2013.
The recollections shall be contemporary for each side of final yr’s assembly in Cardiff, when Italy broke their seven-year, 36-match Six Nations shedding sequence with a shock late win.
Wales suffered defeats within the Italian capital in 2003 and 2007 and there are similarities between these campaigns and this one.
Gatland shall be decided to make sure the record of Welsh defeats in Rome shouldn’t be prolonged subsequent month.
Ought to he fail in that quest, then the place, you marvel, would Welsh rugby go from there?