McBryde: Wales must bounce back
Robin McBryde believes Wales must use their autumn of discontent as a motivational force heading into this season's Six Nations Championship.
Wales will kick off the tournament against Ireland in 12 days' time after losing seven successive Tests, including an autumn whitewash when Argentina, Samoa, New Zealand and Australia all won at the Millennium Stadium.
On the back of that run - and a lengthy injury list - many pundits have written the reigning Six Nations Grand Slam champions off as mid-table material.
But forwards coach McBryde has underlined the deep desire to turn things around in a campaign that will see Wales play three successive away games between hosting Ireland and England.
"We have spoken to the players, and Rob Howley (interim head coach) has made it clear we are on the back of seven games without a win," McBryde said.
"We cannot be happy with it. We have to make sure all members of the squad feel that pain and hurt as much as the coaches. The want to put that right has to be forefront in their minds.
"We have to take the hurt and pain we felt in the summer (Wales suffered a 3-0 Test series defeat in Australia) and autumn, and come out fighting, showing we are better than that."
Accompanying Wales' poor run has been another miserable Heineken Cup campaign for the Welsh regions. The Ospreys, Scarlets and Cardiff Blues managed just three wins between them from 18 starts in making pool stage exits.
But McBryde added: "This is a fresh page and regional form should not come in it. We are together, focused on getting a positive start to the Six Nations.
"The Six Nations is a tournament where expectation is on everybody, especially in the first game.
"Everyone is aware of form coming into the Six Nations, everyone is aware the regions are having a bit of a tough time. We have to put that behind us and focus on moving forward.
"We had a positive start in the last Six Nations, and that is heartening. We won in Ireland. I am not sure what the expectation levels were then, but I cannot imagine they were lower than now.
"There is pressure. It is international rugby and you have to get off to a flyer. The first two games dictate the rest of the Six Nations."
Howley's squad for the tournament contains five uncapped players - Eli Walker, James King, Andrew Coombs, Josh Navidi and Andries Pretorius - who reported for duty today and made an immediate impact,
"It was heartening to see the new faces this morning," McBryde said.
"They have not come to make up the numbers, but to fight for a first-team place, and it augurs well for the training sessions. They have brought freshness and new ideas.
"In the front-row, for instance, nine quality players are fighting for three spots, and we have that competitiveness throughout the team."
Experienced performers like Alun-Wyn Jones, Dan Lydiate, Bradley Davies, Luke Charteris and Rhys Priestland are among those currently out of the selection picture due to injuries, but star prop Adam Jones is back after missing the autumn series.
And Wales are optimistic about the prospects of Ospreys trio Richard Hibbard (shoulder), Ian Evans (knee) and Ryan Jones (thumb) being fit for the opening Six Nations flurries.
"Ryan was seeing a specialist today, and he is pretty positive," McBryde added.
"It is a waiting game, and no-one can ask the physiotherapists more than the coaches as to who will be well.
"Next week, we will have to make some calls in order to give the team the best possible opportunity in the first game. That applies to Ian Evans and Richard Hibbard.
"The glass is half-full, and until anything happens to the contrary we hope everyone will be fit."