Howley wary of growing pressure
November 15, 2012
Wales caretaker coach Rob Howley is looking after the side in Warren Gatland's absence © PA Photos
Wales caretaker coach Rob Howley has promised a performance from his side that "every supporter will be proud of" when they tackle Samoa in Cardiff on Friday night.
Howley saw his side out-muscled and out-played by Argentina in their opening autumn international last weekend with the Pumas claiming a much-deserved 26-12 victory. The former Wales captain, who is in charge of the side while regular coach and British & Irish Lions boss Warren Gatland surveys his options, has responded by making eight changes with skipper Sam Warburton a notable casualty.
Ryan Jones will lead Wales for a record 29th time, while there are also starting berths for fly-half Dan Biggar and openside flanker Justin Tipuric with Howley confident of an improved showing. "We are always disappointed when the expectations of performance fall below a level," said Howley. "There has been a lot of straight-talking between the coaches and players. We are under pressure and we will come out fighting. I am sure you will see a performance that every supporter will be proud of in Wales."
Howley also acknowledged concerns about a lack of leadership but insists that Warburton remains Wales captain despite his demotion to the bench. "Sam Warburton has been a special player and he is a special player. He is still captain," said Howley. "And Ryan Jones has been a special player. It will be a great accolade for him to lead the team tomorrow night and become Wales' most-capped captain.
"Ryan has been an integral member of the squad. He is like the father-figure of the whole squad, and his form for the Ospreys and Wales over the last 18 months has been exceptional. One thing we probably lacked against Argentina, having Alun-Wyn Jones and Jamie Roberts injured, was leadership, and that is about the number of leaders you have in a team. Wales is not about the one captain, it's about more leaders, whether it's the back-three, second-row or props. It is important you create leadership within a group."
Samoa have named a strong line-up for the game and will enter the game dreaming of an upset to rival their World Cup victories over Wales in 1991 and 1999 with further confidence set to be taken from the fact that they have lost their last two encounters with Wales by a combined 11 points.
A thumping 42-12 victory over Canada last Friday night set them up for this week's clash with Wales with another high-profile fixture with France still to come later this month. Two victories could see them climb into the top eight of the IRB Rankings and secure a favourable seeding for next month's 2015 Rugby World Cup pool allocation draw at the expense of one of their European rivals.
Assistant coach Darryl Suasua issued an ominous warning to Wales by revealing that they are aware of the chance to make history. "The games this month are huge for us because I do not think a tier two nation has ever broken into the top eight of the world rankings before," he said. "If we could do it, it would be brilliant."
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
The latest Week in Pictures takes in all the action from the weekend when rugby united behind Samoa
The Wallabies showed flair in Dublin, but they still have a way to go if they are to do more than make up the numbers at the World Cup, writes Greg Growden
England broke their losing streak, but this was not them clawing their way back among the best, writes Tom Hamilton
Wales' lessons to learn in defeat by New Zealand are almost exactly the same as those from previous near-misses, writes Huw Richards