Feeling optimistic about Wales’ chances of success on tour this summer and for the sport to inspire a new audience in the USA? Don’t worry, Robin Davey is here to throw a cup of ice cold realism in your expectant little face.
A seriously under-strength Wales team is now set for three matches on their summer tour, one of which has descended into farce while the other two could be huge wake-up calls.
Wales did finish second in the Six Nations Championship, but the side they will field against South Africa and twice against Argentina bears no resemblance to that line-up.
Leading players like Alun Wyn Jones, Taulupe Faletau, Leigh Halfpenny and Liam Williams needed a rest after their feats for Wales and the Lions over the previous year, while others – like Sam Warburton and Jonathan Davies – remain long-term injury victims.
On top of that, Luke Charteris, Tomas Francis and Josh Adams were withdrawn from the tour after their clubs, acting under Premier Rugby guidelines, refused to release them for the South Africa game as it was outside the IRB June Test window.
And even then, two more – Aaron Shingler and Ashton Hewitt – pulled out late on after suffering injuries, Shingler in the Scarlets’ Guinness Pro 14 final and Hewitt in a Wales training session.
Initial opponents South Africa are similarly without a number of leading players as new coach Rassie Erasmus has decided to leave them at home to prepare for the three-match Test series against England.
Consequently, there will be no Willie le Roux, Handre Pollard, Francois Steyn, Bismarck du Plessis, Tandai Mtawarira and Duane Vermuelen. And there are as many as 13 uncapped players in their 26-man squad.
Little wonder, then, that the latest Wales v South Africa clash in a long tradition has been labelled a farce when it is meant to be two of the world’s heavyweight teams, southern and northern hemisphere rivals for many years.
And even more ridiculous is that the match on Saturday (10pm our time) is being played on American soil in Washington. Money and the aim of boosting the game in America are the undoubted reasons – the former achieved but the latter hardly likely given the fact that it is largely between two second string sides.
And so on to Argentina and two Tests in San Juan and Santa Fe on June 9 and 16 (both kick off 8.40pm BST) where Wales really will be up against it.
Leading Argentinian side the Jaguares, now expertly coached by cult hero Mario Ledesma, have won six games in a row in Super Rugby, and eight of their last 10, the latest being against the Sharks last Friday.
That has taken them to the Super play-offs, an amazing turnaround as they were the whipping boys of the tournament when they first entered after years of isolation.
Pumas coach Daniel Hourcade has said his squad are in unbeatable condition as he issues a warning to Wales – a warning they would do well to heed as they embark on a tour which will either develop a few players and increase the strength of the squad, or be an unmitigated disaster.