CHRIS KIRWAN SAYS: Staying in top eight is not so important for Wales
10:00am Thursday 29th November 2012 in Sport
THERE has been a great deal of scare mongering about the need for Wales to beat Australia in order to protect their place in the top eight of the world rankings.
Firstly, the need to end a four-year drought against the southern hemisphere big guns should be the biggest concern.
But nor should anyone worry about the defeat to the Wallabies increasing the chances of a group of death.
Look at the current rankings: 1 New Zealand, 2 South Africa, 3 Australia, 4 France, 5 England, 6 Ireland, 7 Wales, 8 Samoa, 9 Argentina, 10 Italy, 11 Tonga, 12 Scotland.
Take New Zealand and South Africa out of the equation and you can pretty much throw a blanket over the rest.
Sure, facing Tonga is preferable to facing England but in the last 14 months the Sea Eagles have beaten France and Scotland.
As things currently stand Wales could be drawn with New Zealand and Argentina.
If the Wallabies win on Saturday then Warren Gatland’s men could be drawn with France and Samoa.
Both are tough but I’d opt for the latter if given the choice.
At the risk of stating the bleeding obvious, it’s down to the luck of the draw on Monday.
What Wales should be more slightly concerned with is the increased demands that are put on sides that are from the third pot, as Samoa will testify.
In the 2011 World Cup the Pacific Islanders were hindered by a schedule that saw them playing Namibia four days before the crunch clash with Wales.
But over the last few years Gatland and his coaches have incessantly told us that there is greater strength in depth in the national squad.
It may not be ideal to face a more hectic fixture list but it would not be the end of the world and Wales’ 30-man squad should be able to cope with it.
A win against the Wallabies is desperately needed but not because of the rankings.
LAST Saturday’s clash between Wales and New Zealand didn’t teach us much that we didn’t already know but it did emphasise the need for eight-man benches in Test rugby.
When tighthead prop Aaron Jarvis suffered a season-ending knee injury in the second minute he was replaced by Scott Andrews.
Had it been the Six Nations, where there were seven replacements last season, then the ghastly prospect of uncontested scrums would have loomed.
Warren Gatland named one prop – Paul James, who can play loosehead and tighthead – and a hooker on his bench for all five fixtures.
Had the same regulations been in place against the All Blacks then Wales would have been one injury to a prop away from being unable to compete at the set piece for over 78 minutes.
Uncontested scrums ruin the spectacle, leading to unpalatable rugby league style encounters with loose forwards dominating the packs.
It’s hard to understand the reasoning behind the seven-man Six Nations bench – even Principality Premiership sides can find an extra prop to be among their replacements.
Hopefully the European heavyweights can move with the times and bolster their ranks because the scrum battle needs to be protected.
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