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Shane Williams column: We need to take a lead from Liam Williams

Liam WilliamsMentally and physically, Wales’ final Test against New Zealand was a complete miss-match. Wales may want to take on the best in the world as often as they can but Dunedin was simply a game too far.

The players simply looked shattered, jaded and like they couldn’t wait to get on that plane home. And who could blame them?

It has been a staggeringly long season that began pretty much this time last year as they headed off to pre-World Cup camps.

Since then it has been non-stop rugby ending in an unprecedented three-Test tour in the toughest rugby country in the world. The fixture list really did them few favours.

You know you’ve been involved in a big match after just one game against the All Blacks, let alone three in a row.

Then you throw in a game against one of the top Super Rugby sides as a mid-week filler and you wonder how on earth those guys managed to get out onto the pitch at Dunedin. It’s just too much.

Wales looked tired in everything they did. They didn’t offer anything in attack and were slow and cumbersome in defence.

As a result, they were played off the park by a side who were fresh, just starting to get into the groove, playing with confidence and looking like they were loving every minute. The two sides could not be further apart. But to the All Blacks’ credit, they were ruthless.

Wales were partly to blame for shooting themselves in the foot. They played right into New Zealand’s hands with their kicking game.

But fatigue played a major part in why that was executed so poorly.

A few kicks by Dan Biggar and Rhys Webb weren’t quite on the money but more tellingly there was just no urgency with the chase.

It meant the likes of Ben Smith, who I thought was just outstanding yet again, and Israel Dagg ran riot.

The worry for Wales is that was also a downfall against England so they need to sort it out.

In Dunedin, Smith and Dagg could build up a head of steam without anyone laying a finger on them and if there is one thing those players, and Julian Savea, are brilliant at, it’s exploiting weaknesses.

Too often Wales ended up with defenders such as Jonathan Davies isolated or even front-rowers in midfield trying to mark Dagg and Smith. It’s like an elephant trying to catch a cheetah, there’s just no chance.

Wales were left just hoofing the ball up field and waiting for the next wave to come crashing down on them.

Beauden Barrett was outstanding in the way he pulled the strings and showed strength to beat Biggar for his first try and some pace to get outside Hallam Amos for the second.

Again, Wales just lacked the sharpness in their legs to fly into the tackles.

You can never question the spirit or mentality of the Welsh team.

It can be daunting when you know you are going out to face the best team in the world and all they are going to do is run at you all day.

But Wales will have gone out there and given every last drop they had. The problem was the tank was empty.

People talk about Wales’ fitness. It is something Warren Gatland and Shaun Edwards take great pride in. But you cannot disguise the fact Wales were spent and New Zealand just got stronger as the game went on.

It’s hard to look for positives when you’ve been thumped 46-6.

Liam Williams probably stands out as the man who embodies the spirit of Wales.

He just did not stop putting his body on the line. He certainly saved two tries with last-ditch tackles and when he got the ball in his hands, he had the ability to beat the first man.

If the whole Welsh team had his mentality and ability, we would be stronger.

When Leigh Halfpenny returns to full-back, Williams must be handed that No14 shirt for keeps, or, in my team, preferably visa versa.

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