Howley calls for mental toughness

ONLY DRAGON IN SQUAD: Toby Faletau

ONLY DRAGON IN SQUAD: Toby Faletau

First published in Sport South Wales Argus: Photograph of the Author by

WALES have to be mentally tougher and “master the moment” this autumn if they are to start beating the southern hemisphere superpowers, according to Rob Howley.

Yesterday Wales’ interim head coach named his 35-man squad – containing just one Newport Gwent Dragons player in Toby Faletau – to face Argentina, Samoa, New Zealand and Australia.

All four sides will present stern challenges but Howley’s men will be looking again to overcome their hoodoo against the All Blacks and Wallabies in particular.

Former Wales and Lions star Howley said he is still hurting from the 3-0 Test series defeat in Australia. The tourists could have easily won the rubber but were left wondering what if after a hat trick of heart-breaking narrow defeats (27-19, 25-23 and 20-19).

On being asked if those defeats play on his mind, the ex-scrum half replied: “Of course it’s niggled.

“It’s about fine margins with big consequences and it’s a series you look back on, not only in statistics, but you’ve got a gut feeling, both coaches and players, we could have won that series 2-1.”

Howley – who has stepped into Wales head coach Warren Gatland’s shoes so he can coach the British and Irish Lions in Australia next year – urges his players to use the pain to spur them on.

He said: “Winning the series didn’t happen and you use that as motivation.

“I said to the players in the changing room (after the third Test) – just remember this time and keep it in your belly, make sure you use it internally however you want going into the autumn series.”

Wales, he stressed, have to learn to close out tight games to ensure they start being known not as courageous losers, but heroic winners.

“It’s about holding our nerve, mastering the moment when you get into the lead, remaining with our emotions intact,” Howley said. “Basically, when you’ve got five or six minutes left in a game, we’ve got to be accurate under pressure, have the basic skills under pressure to carry the result.

“Because we have put ourselves in positions – in the first, second and third Test – to win those games.”

There are no major surprises in Wales’ squad with World Cup and Grand Slam captain Sam Warburton keeping the skipper’s job despite intense pressure from Justin Tipuric for his No 7 jersey.

Dan Biggar is recalled at outside half and will battle it out with Perpignan’s James Hook to oust Rhys Priest-land as first choice No 10.

Clermont Auvergne full back Lee Byrne misses out to Leigh Halfpenny and Liam Williams despite playing for one of Europe’s form teams.

Tighthead prop Aaron Jarvis, 26, is the only uncapped player called up, the Exeter-born Ospreys man Welsh-qualified through his grandmother.

Backs: L Halfpenny (Cardiff Blues), Liam Williams (Scarlets), A Cuthbert (Cardiff Blues), G North (Scarlets), H Robinson (Cardiff Blues), A Beck (Ospreys), J Davies (Scarlets), J Roberts (Cardiff Blues), S Williams (Scarlets), D Biggar (Ospreys), J Hook (Perpignan), R Priestland (Scarlets), T Knoyle (Scarlets), M Phillips (Bayonne), Lloyd Williams (Cardiff Blues).

Forwards: S Andrews (Cardiff Blues), R Bevington (Ospreys), P James (Bath), A Jarvis (Ospreys), G Jenkins (Toulon), A Jones (Ospreys), R Hibbard (Ospreys), K Owens (Scarlets), M Rees (Scarlets), B Davies (Cardiff Blues), L Charteris (Perpignan), I Evans (Ospreys), A W Jones (Ospreys), T Faletau (Newport Gwent Dragons), R Jones (Ospreys), R McCusker (Scarlets), A Shingler (Scarlets), J Tipuric (Ospreys), J Turnbull (Scarlets), S Warburton (Cardiff Blues, capt).

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