Wales have returned to something new as they attempt to secure a first Test win against Australia in eight years.
Warren Gatland’s decision to lead the British & Irish Lions on a second tour next summer has led the Welsh Rugby Union to hand temporary control of the national team to his assistant, Rob Howley.
It is a role the former Wales captain performed in similar circumstances four years ago, but for over a third of his 37-man squad it is a move that represents a step into the unknown.
“Obviously it’s weird not having Warren about,” Scarlets and Wales No. 9 Gareth Davies admitted to ESPN before meeting up with the squad. “But Rob is a big part of the coaching team, so it’s not going to be that different.”
Howley has been one of Gatland’s trusted lieutenants since the New Zealander took the Wales job following the 2007 Rugby World Cup. Alongside Shaun Edwards, Neil Jenkins and Robin McBryde, he is responsible for much of the day-to-day coaching under the Kiwi.
“Warren’s a big character in the backroom staff. He obviously has a lot of influence over the inner workings of the team,” Davies’ international colleague Hallam Amos said.
“[But] there is a whole team there who have been there for the best part of a decade now. I don’t think from a coaching aspect much will change.
“The way Gats [Gatland] deals with the media is quite individual and I think Rob will be different in that regard. But from a purely playing point of view I don’t think anything will change too much.”
Whether anything changes on the training park, Wales are determined to alter their luck against the Wallabies on the pitch this Saturday.
The principality’s losing run against Australia now stretches to 11 matches, the most recent of which was a 15-6 reverse at the 2015 Rugby World Cup.
Davies was named man of the match in that Twickenham clash but the scrum-half will be on the bench in Cardiff, as he has been since Rhys Webb returned to fitness.
Gareth Davies was named man of the match when Australia beat Wales at the Rugby World Cup last October. Paul Cunningham/Corbis via Getty Images
His bid to oust his friend and rival from Wales’ No. 9 shirt, however, could well be aided by advice from his caretaker boss.
“When I was growing up Rob was one of my childhood heroes, so it’s great for me to be able to work with him,” Davies said. “He’s great with us scrum-halves, he does a lot with us, drills and stuff.
“He knows a lot about the game and I truly enjoy working with him, because I feel like we learn a lot from him.”
The Scarlets man added: “There are a couple of pointers that he’s given me on my passing and my kicking that I work on daily.
“Obviously I’ve learned a lot from the other coaches as well, but with Rob being a specialist scrum-half there are a few pointers that he has taught me, and I feel that they are a big part of my game at the moment.”
Wales’ last success against Australia came during Gatland’s first year in charge, and their 11-match losing streak includes the three-Test tour to Australia in 2012 which Howley presided over.
Wales were ahead in two of those matches going into the final stages, while they were camped on the Wallabies line with a two-man advantage for around seven minutes of their Pool A clash last October. The narrow margin of defeat only adds to Welsh frustration.
“It’s always at the back of our minds,” Davies added. “The World Cup was very frustrating for us, we controlled that game for the majority of the game, we were unlucky. We got held up over the line three times.
“If little things had gone our way, if we would have had one of those tries awarded, we would have gone on and won the game. So, we’ve got to be positive.
“We’ll look back at that game at the World Cup and see where we did do well, and hopefully we can put things right and finally get that win against Australia.”
BT Sport’s charitable initiative, The Supporters Club, has announced a new grant for ‘TACKLE’ — a joint project between the four professional teams in Wales that will bring an inspiring new rugby education programme to young people in Communities First areas.
Source Article from http://www.espn.co.uk/rugby/story/_/id/17962743/wales-undeterred-gatland-absence-howley-plots-australia-downfall
Wales undeterred by Gatland absence, Australia woe
www.espn.co.uk – RUGBY