Wales a greater World Cup threat than Ireland - Barnes

Warren Gatland 1566173015

That's the view of English critic Stuart Barnes, a former England and British & Irish Lions player.

Writing in The Times, Barnes said Ireland's win over the All Blacks, their first on Irish soil would be the overriding memory of the November Tests and a game that would go down in the annals of the game.


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But he added, "Even the most partisan of Irishmen probably recognise that, with neutrality and a season significantly geared towards the World Cup, New Zealand remain the team to beat.

"Their vulnerability was there for all to see at Twickenham and exposed by a team nearer their peak a week later in Dublin. Wales will be wondering whether this might have been their moment to end more than 60 years of All Black-inflicted misery had their paths crossed in Cardiff."

Barnes said Wales were being under-estimated as was the defensive work Shaun Edwards had done with the side. His efforts were as good as any in the world.

"He may be returning to his Wigan roots soon but is placing the deepest of foundations for a serious Welsh tilt at perhaps a grand slam and World Cup," he said.

While coach Warren Gatland did not have a good record against Southern Hemisphere sides, and Wales had not always played the most 'sumptuous' rugby, there was now a belief in the side that had been missing.

"Men such as Alun Wyn Jones and Jonathan Davies do not fear New Zealand. Much as it goes against perceived wisdom (Wales are twice the price of either England or Ireland for Japan), Wales are heading towards next year as a dangerous threat to the rest of the world," Barnes said.

Ireland did have two top forwards in Tadhg Furlong and James Ryan while they had strength in the loose but Wales were a side capable of making a greater improvement than that already achieved by Ireland.

England had restored some belief after a horrific first half of 2018, especially in their first half effort against the All Blacks.

"England, because of the size of the media chorus at their beck and call, have a capacity for over-amplification but as with Wales and Ireland, the autumn series has been kind to them.

"It has been the best European sequence of results against the southern hemisphere for some time. The All Blacks – vulnerable at times in the Rugby Championship – do not appear unbeatable as they did in the build-up to 2015.

"For all the glittering brilliance of so many of their players, rugby is a game where decision-making is a major part of the match-winning process. Slowly, but surely, the greatness of Richie McCaw and Dan Carter as influencers par excellence is dawning," he said.

A new Test match order had resulted from the November Tests. New Zealand were still out on their own but the gap had closed and the 'others' were closing in, Barnes said.

Warren Gatland 1566173015

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