Wales lose duo as top four fight fades
WALES were today deciding how to respond to the hammer blow of losing two key forwards as they admitted they are losing their fight to be classed as top seeds for the World Cup.
Already reeling from being without Adam Jones and Dan Lydiate, Rob Howley found himself planning for the rest of the autumn series minus crocked pair Alun Wyn Jones and Josh Turnbull.
A scan on Jones's injured shoulder confirmed that the Ospreys skipper would not feature in the games against Samoa, New Zealand and Australia, while Scarlets' back rower Turnbull will be out for at least four weeks after sustaining knee ligament damage.
It all added to Howley's problems as he prepared to name his side to face Samoa on Friday evening.
His team had started their autumn campaign amid talk of securing fourth place in next month's IRB rankings and booking a prized spot among the top seeds for the 2015 World Cup.
But the dismal defeat by Argentina has raised the possibility that they could be faced with a scramble to avoid a pool of death at the global tournament.
Defeat against Samoa and reverses against New Zealand and Australia would leave Scotland and Samoa breathing down Welsh collars in the IRB rankings, raising the spectre of Howley and Warren Gatland's worst nightmare — their side being plunged into the third pot of seeds and a group that contains three strong teams.
So Howley's players could be forgiven for looking behind them as they head into their clash with the islanders.
Skills coach Neil Jenkins said: "We didn't really talk about the top four before the game with Argentina — other people did.
"That said, it is a goal of ours to get there soon.
"But I think it's pretty unlikely, with the loss against Argentina. It's going to be quite tough to get up into that top pool, with France winning and England winning comfortably as well.
"It was a disappointing game.
"I don't know if you can use the word 'poor', but it wasn't one of our better days on Saturday.
"We have another game on Friday and we have to make sure we are right and ready to go because it's going to be another tough, physical game and we have to be ready to play and match whatever Samoa bring to the table.
"There are some more important games after that.
"But Friday is our focus. We need to perform well and win."
Ryan Jones, Ashley Beck and Jamie Roberts needed to prove their fitness before the team was finalised.
Jenkins added: "Ryan has had an outstanding season and been outstanding for Wales for a long time.
"His experience, how he plays the game and his know-how are vital to us. If he is fit, it'll be a big plus for us."