Sportsdragon’s Bank Holiday Roar

As Euro 2016 gets ready to kick off , and Roland Garros takes spring into summer in the leafy boulevards of Paris, England and Wales end their exhausting seasons with three test series’ in Australia and New Zealand respectively.

So as Wales head to the land of the long white cloud, it’s worth bearing in mind that even though I am fifty eight years of age, Wales have never beaten the All Blacks since i came into the world.

In fact 1953 was the last time the men in red were victorious over the men in black.

The nearest thing I’ve experienced to a win was the when Wales won the Haka stand off in 2008, but that just made the All Blacks angry, and they beat us yet again.

It’s been a familiar tale throughout the years , even the great Welsh teams of the 70s could not defeat New Zealand, although a memorable day at Stradey Park, Llanelli, in October 1972 was a huge consolation for us Carmathenshire folk.

This tour sees Wales take a vastly experienced squad that have regularly won Northern hemisphere honours, and tasted World Cup knock out experience, but wins against Southern Hemisphere teams have been few and far between.

There is no doubt that there has never been a better time to face New Zealand, now that Dan Carter, Richie McCaw, Conrad Smith, Ma’a Nonu, Kevin Mealamu and Tony Woodcock have all retired, but the task is still daunting to say the least.

The All Blacks have not played since the Rugby World Cup final at Twickenham last October, so surely Wales best chance lies in that first test on June 11.

Wales will have to be at their very best just to be in with a chance of a victory in the the three match series, and that is the challenge for a team that have a reputation for being notoriously slow starters.

The first test sees the men in red return to a familiar RWC 2011 venue, Eden Park, in Auckland, before visiting Wellington a week later.

In between the first two tests Wales will be warmly welcomed in Warren Gatland’s home town , Hamilton, where they will face Super Rugby outfit the Chiefs, before ending their tour with a third test in Dunedin.

The  Weekend
As I write, the Welsh squad, and entourage are assembling at Heathrow, DVT socks at the ready, for the long flight to Auckland.

Their final run out took place in front of 81,128  sun drenched spectators at Twickenham, on Sunday, where they faced an England team devoid of any Saracens and Exeter players, who played in the Aviva premiership final the previous day.

Wales started brightly and with pace , racing to a 10-0 lead before everything started to slowly unravel, resulting in a 27-13 win for the home team.

Paying the price for not selecting a specialist “7” Wales conceeded twenty turnovers, the other damning statistic is the twenty one tackles they missed.

A team with so much talent at its disposal is having far too many off days, and this is something that Wales clearly have to address.

A Dan Cole knock on ,missed by the officials, and the TMO resulted in a try for England at a crucial point of the match ,with the score at 15-13 to the men in white.

From then on in, Wales played with greater inaccuracy and as their set piece started to creak,they never looked like closing the gap.

George Ford only landed one kick out of seven attempts, which puts the scoreline into perspective.

The weekend saw the Lyon Kings, Saracens defeat Exeter Chiefs in front of 77, 109 at Twickenham in a pulsating final, on a hot and sunny Saturday afternoon, whilst a more modest crowd of 34,450 ,witnessed the Connacht dream season end with the men in green crowned champions after defeating Leinster at Murrayfield.

It has been a long hard season, and whilst the curtain falls domestically , a whole new production is about to premier globally

Let the games begin !


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