Wales determined to shut out ‘external noise’ in tough Six Nations campaign
Assistant coach Jonathan Thomas says there will always be “external noise” as Wales approach the final fortnight of a Guinness Six Nations campaign that has produced far more questions than answers.
Wales head to Rome for an appointment with Italy on Saturday week that is likely to decide which country props up this season’s Six Nations table.
It is 20 years since Wales last finished bottom of the pile but successive defeats against Ireland, Scotland and England have left them scrambling around the basement.
With reigning Six Nations champions France their final opponents in Paris, victory over the Azzurri is essential to hopes of Wales avoiding the wooden spoon.
Off the field, it has also been a difficult time with the threat of a players’ strike engulfing the build-up to England’s Cardiff visit before compromises were reached with Welsh rugby powerbrokers on subjects like Wales’ 60-cap selection rule and fixed-variable contracts.
“As we all know, there has been some adversity for the players in the last few weeks, so that has been challenging for them,” Wales assistant coach and contact specialist Thomas said.
“I have been involved with English rugby for the last few years and there is huge adversity with the clubs there. It’s where rugby is a little bit at the moment.
There are peaks and troughs, politics come into it now and again. Is it ideal? No
“Rugby goes through these cycles. My first (Wales) cap in 2003 was off the back of a disappointing Six Nations. The players threatened to strike. It is almost a little bit like history is repeating itself.
“There are peaks and troughs, politics come into it now and again. Is it ideal? No.
“It’s important we stay focused. There is external noise – that is always going to be the case – but it is important that you worry about the things you can control.”
Wales have lost 12 of their last 15 Tests, including a home defeat against Italy a year ago, while they last won a Six Nations game in February 2022.
And there are just five Tests left before Wales’ World Cup opener against Fiji in Bordeaux, so time is not on their side ahead of that global showpiece.
Thomas added: “In international rugby, the margins are really small.
“When you win, you are never as good as you think. When you lose, you are never as bad as you think. You are never as far away from turning the corner as potentially people on the outside think you are.
“I think it is probably one of the best Italy teams I have seen. It’s really impressive how they have grown and developed, and we know it is going to be a tough challenge.
“For us, we can’t be afraid of failure. We can’t fear failure. It’s staying focused on us and us getting better. It is still a game where you need to do the basics repeatedly well.”
Thomas, meanwhile, delivered encouraging fitness news on fly-half Owen Williams and prop Gareth Thomas, who were both forced off during the England game.
“We are pretty confident with Owen and Gareth. They are back in training,” Jonathan Thomas said.
“Owen was a little bit of a hip, a high-ball collision; Gareth was a bit of a back spasm, and we are confident about both of those players.
“‘Cuthy’ (wing Alex Cuthbert) is to be assessed. He has got a foot injury, and at the moment it is not known how severe that is.”
The best videos delivered daily
Watch the stories that matter, right from your inbox