WELLINGTON (Reuters) - While the All Blacks met homecoming NBA star Steven Adams and contemplated how they could inch their game even closer to perfection on Wednesday, Wales were licking their wounds after a humiliating defeat to Super Rugby’s Waikato Chiefs in Hamilton.
The encouragement of the tourists’ bright and entertaining display in the 39-21 defeat in Auckland last weekend was buried on Tuesday under the weight of six tries as they crashed to a 40-7 loss to the Chiefs.
Wales coach Warren Gatland had hoped some of the fringe players in his squad might put their hands up for a place in the team for Saturday’s second test in Wellington but it was back to the drawing board for the New Zealander.
The world champions, meanwhile, have spent the week talking about improving the things that did not work as well as they had hoped at Eden Park and warning against complacency.
Assistant coach Ian Foster’s analysis of how the All Blacks had performed at the breakdown in the first test was typical.
“As part of the review we’ve learnt that we had three or four rucks (where) we weren’t as good as we needed to be and we’re doing what we always do; if we think it’s a weakness, we’ve got to get better at it,” he told reporters.
Fullback and vice captain Ben Smith, who dropped a high ball in the lead-up to Wales’s first try, also indulged in some self criticism.
“There’s probably a few things I just need to fix up, I wasn’t as accurate as I could have been at times and I‘m going to work hard on that this week,” he told reporters.
The only consolation for Hamilton-born Gatland after his trip home was that most of the players beaten by the Chiefs will not feature in the starting side in the New Zealand capital on Saturday.
“A number of players there were given a chance to go out there and make a statement, perform and put their hands up for selection for Saturday,” he told reporters after the defeat.
”And probably a few questions were answered for us in terms of fringe players and where they’re at.
”There’s no doubt the players in that changing room are hurting - not just the players who took the pitch but they players who were watching as well.
“The challenge is how we respond to that, and that’s what we need to do for Saturday.”
Reporting by Nick Mulvenney in Sydney; Editing by Peter Rutherford