Patrick McKendry is a rugby and boxing writer for the Herald.

Patrick McKendry: Wales' woes could be far from over

The other side of the equation is that the All Blacks, already in Wellington preparing for the second test, will have watched   the Chiefs match with a growing sense of self belief. Photo / Nick Reed
The other side of the equation is that the All Blacks, already in Wellington preparing for the second test, will have watched the Chiefs match with a growing sense of self belief. Photo / Nick Reed

The earliest we will discover the damage caused by Wales' humiliation by the Chiefs in Hamilton will be on Saturday at Wellington's Cake Tin, because it is here that they could be truly cooked by the All Blacks.

If anything summed up Wales' woes at Waikato Stadium, it was the sight of their test captain Sam Warburton, called into the starting team due to the late withdrawal of Ellis Jenkins, walking back to the reserves bench after being replaced early in the second half. At the end of his second defeat in three days, he walked, head down, to his seat, while the din generated by the home support went on around him and his side sank further into the mire.

After not playing for six weeks due to a shoulder injury, Warburton - assuming he captains Wales in Wellington and next Saturday in Dunedin - will be asked to play three tests against the world champions and a midweek game against one of New Zealand's best Super Rugby franchises in 14 days.

That is a very tough assignment, and one which brings into focus coach Warren Gatland's decision to play the tour match against the Chiefs and his strategy surrounding it. It's all very well playing tour matches when you have a deep squad - and, importantly, one that you have confidence in - but in terms of player welfare alone, starting Warburton and naming fellow test certainties Jamie Roberts and Taulupe Faletau on the reserves bench in Hamilton appears to defy logic.

Desperate to stem the black, red and yellow tide, Gatland in the second half threw on midfielder Roberts and No8 Faletau, the latter one of the best players on the Eden Park pitch last Saturday. Neither made much difference to their team, a failure which could have wider consequences to their and the team's mentality.

The end result of the unacceptable 40-7 defeat against a Chiefs team without any test players, which came on top of the All Blacks' domination in the last quarter at Eden Park for the home side's 39-21 win, is that Gatland's men will be physically sore and mentally vulnerable.

Team morale will have to be carefully rekindled in the capital, because the visitors are now on a knife edge.

If they somehow rally to limit the damage on Saturday - assuming, and I think I am on safe ground here - that a victory at Westpac Stadium is now out of the question, they could pay the price for mining their collective physical and mental reserves under the roof in Dunedin.

The other side of the equation is that the All Blacks, already in Wellington preparing for the second test, will have watched the Chiefs match with a growing sense of self belief.

This could get ugly.

- NZ Herald

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Patrick McKendry is a rugby and boxing writer for the Herald.

Rugby writer Patrick McKendry began his journalism career 20 years ago and has worked in newspapers in New Zealand and the United Kingdom. He worked in a communications role on his return here before joining APN before the 2011 World Cup.

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