Wales interim coach Rob Howley insists the prospect of facing world champions New Zealand, made slightly less daunting by the return of Warren Gatland, can lift the gloom hanging over his team after their 26-19 loss to Samoa.
Wales may have won the Six Nations and the grand slam this year but are veering towards cri sis point after Samoa subjected them to a fifth straight defeat.
That has seen Wales, World Cup semi-finalists this time last year, slump to eighth in the world rankings with the All Blacks due at the Millennium Stadium next Saturday.
Howley said: “Many of us have been here before and we know what it’s like as players and coaches.
“Over the past 12 months this team has been to a World Cup semi-final and a grand slam, we’ve had many highs and now we’re going through a low point. We have to look at ourselves individually and collectively and bounce back.
“Rugby gives you an opportunity to do that and I’ve told the players to look forward to when they’re winning again. We will stick together and we have two good games to come in New Zealand and Australia.”
Ashley Beck gave Wales a 13-6 lead with an interception try on his home debut only for Fa’atoina Autagavaia, George Pisi and Johnny Leota to cross as Samoa evoked memories of their famous World Cup victories over Wales in 1991 and 1999, then as Western Samoa, with a combination of ferocious tackling and clinical finishing.
That was in stark contrast to Wales who failed to put together any sustained pressure due to basic errors and a lack of composure, leading Samoa captain David Lemi to brand the European champions as “predictable”.
Samoa now head to France for next week’s test in Paris.
Head coach Stephen Betham said: “We will give it our best shot against France.”