So, what exactly are the chances of Wales making a better fist of things in this Six Nations?
During the autumn, it was as if they were exploring different ways of messing things up, with new problem areas emerging each week.
Out in Paris, it was the defence, against Scotland and Italy the breakdown, while it was the scrum in the defeats to Ireland and England.
Then, pretty much throughout the campaign, there were major issues at the lineout, while the attack spluttered for much of the time, with the first five Tests delivering just six tries, two of those against Georgia.
The question now is whether the issues can be ironed out for the Championship?
Rugby correspondent Simon Thomas considers the chances of this happening,
This was an area of particular fragility out in Dublin and at home to England.
Against Ireland, Rhys Carre had a torrid time on the loosehead up against the powerful Andrew Porter, conceding a series of penalties and enduring the ignominy of being taken off before half-time. It was a sobering experience for the young man.
Then, when the English came to Llanelli, it was the turn of the seasoned Samson Lee to have a day to forget.
He had gone so well on the tighthead against Georgia seven days earlier, but a week can be a long time in rugby.
Up against Lions Test loosehead Mako Vunipola, he found himself coming second best and was replaced just a few minutes into the second half.
The scrum had also creaked in the defeat to Scotland, so it’s clearly an area of real concern going into the Championship.
Wales may point to refereeing interpretations, but, at the end of the day, if you are being pinged you have to find ways of painting better pictures for the officials.
What’s the solution then?
Well, much depends on Wyn Jones and Tomas Francis staying fit and injury-free.
They are, by some distance, the strongest scrummagers in the squad and Wales can not afford to lose either of them.
Jones has become a vital figure, with experienced fellow looseheads Rob Evans and Nicky Smith sidelined with injury, leaving Carre and the returning Rhodri Jones as back up, men whose strengths lie around the park.
It’s a similar story on the tight, as Lee is concussed and WillGriff John not included, so Francis is very much the cornerstone option, with Dillon Lewis and Leon Brown offering mobility in the loose.
So, there is hope of shoring things up in the shape of Jones and Francis, the pairing that dovetailed pretty effectively at the World Cup in Japan.
There is a lot resting on their sizeable shoulders.
This was the real consistent Achilles heel during the autumn.
In all, Wales lost 19 lineouts on their own throw over the six matches, an average of more than three a game.
They found various ways of malfunctioning along the way.
There were clean steals by the opposition, there were timing issues with the throw or the jump and they were pulled back for being not straight.
A wide variety of targets were tried out, with no fewer than eight different jumpers employed in Aaron Wainwright, Taulupe Faletau, Will Rowlands, Shane Lewis-Hughes, Seb Davies, Cory Hill, Alun Wyn Jones and Justin Tipuric.
But whoever was hoisted up, the hookers struggled to hit their men, with Ryan Elias and Elliot Dee the two to endure the toughest time.
It was when Wales looked to throw to the tail that things really went awry, with 10 of the 17 losses in the first five games heading to the back.
Along with the issues at the scrum, it meant Wayne Pivac’s team were without a set-piece platform for much of the autumn.
They were undermined at source, with the inevitable consequences in terms of results.
So, how can the lineout lapses be resolved?
Well, clearly, it’s not just about one man, it’s a unit operation.
But having the Sheriff back in town is a really reassuring sight.
Wales found it nigh on impossible to replace the injured Ken Owens during the autumn, so his return from shoulder surgery is a major boost.
With 79 Test caps under his belt, the 34-year-old is just the kind of experienced figure you need at a time of crisis, the man to bring a steady set of arrows to the oche.
The other question is do Wales look to go for more height in the lineout?
They have that option at their disposal, with Will Rowlands and the recalled Adam Beard each clocking in at 6ft 8ins.
It might well be tempting to employ one of those twin towers, given the issues in the autumn, while the second row pairing is very much up in the air amid doubts over Alun Wyn Jones’ fitness.
But whoever they go for, all eyes will be on the early lineouts against Ireland on Sunday to see if the malaise has been successfully tackled.
At half-time during the final Nations Cup clash with Italy, Bryan Habana described the Welsh breakdown play as atrocious and it was hard to argue with the Springboks legend.
Pivac’s men were penalised no fewer than eight times there in the first-half, with Wayne Barnes eventually losing his patience as he sent Josh Adams to the sin bin as a form of cumulative punishment.
The offences were myriad in nature – not releasing, not rolling away, coming in from the side, holding on and hands on the ground.
It wasn’t good and it wasn’t the first time.
During their rearranged Six Nations match against Scotland a month or so earlier, Wales had been blown away at the breakdown, with Jamie Ritchie, Hamish Watson and Fraser Brown having a field day for the visitors.
Tellingly, Pivac uttered the B word six times during his post-match press conference.
Wales gave away 11 penalties in all at the breakdown that day in Llanelli – six in attack, five in defence.
Their attempts to secure turnovers were summarily repelled as they were swatted off the ball, with the Scots racking up the phases with disturbing ease.
The home side couldn’t steal possession and they couldn’t slow it down. It wasn’t a good combination.
Then, when they were on the attack, retaining their own ball was a real issue. Rarely would they get through more than a few phases before coughing up possession, either through an infringement or a turnover.
Efficient was not the word.
The end result was they spent most of the match on the back foot and unsurprisingly lost.
When you consider the campaign ended with them conceding 12 turnovers against Italy, you can see that it was an unresolved problem.
The breakdown was such a key area for Pivac and Stephen Jones during their time in charge at the Scarlets.
They were lethal off transition ball, winning turnovers through the likes of James Davies and Tadhg Beirne and striking on the counter.
Yet, what was an area of strength at regional level has become one of weakness in the Test arena.
So, is there any reason to hope for an improvement in this forthcoming Six Nations?
Well, the return of Josh Navidi is a big plus as he was arguably the man Wales missed more than any other during the autumn.
He is their best man at clearing out at the ruck, while he also offers an additional presence over the ball and just brings such physicality in the contact area.
The issue with Navidi, of course, is how long it will take him to get back up to speed, given he has only had one outing off the bench for Cardiff Blues after four months sidelined with concussion.
But, as with Owens, it’s reassuring to see him back there.
Yet, as with the returning hooker, it can’t just be about one man. The breakdown is a collective enterprise and we badly need to see signs of improvement across the board in that area.
It was always going to be difficult for Byron Hayward stepping into the shoes of Shaun Edwards and so it proved.
Just two games into the autumn campaign and he was gone, with Pivac saying Wales weren’t getting what they wanted from their defence.
It had certainly been pretty calamitous during the opening warm-up game against France.
We had become so used to the red line coming up as one over the years amid Edwards’ blitz defence, with everyone on the same page.
But out in Paris, it was all over the shop, with players jumping out of the line ahead of their colleagues, creating dog legs which Les Bleus ruthlessly exposed.
Following Hayward’s departure, Gethin Jenkins was handed the reins.
In the next match, against Ireland, you could clearly see an attempt to implement the kind of collective defensive line speed and pressure you saw under Edwards.
But, if anything, they were unduly keen in their efforts to reinstate that red wave, with players coming up too quick and stepping offside.
The line speed wasn’t co-ordinated, it wasn’t as one and it wasn’t sufficiently organised.
On top of that, there was a vulnerability when Ireland went through the phases and got their trademark pick-and-go game going.
The hosts made ground far too comfortably, getting over the gainline time and again, while they also capitalised on their dominant scrum, using it as the platform to strike from close range through their power carriers.
There was no lack of effort put in by Wales, who made 170 tackles in all.
But 32 points conceded against an Ireland team not at full strength spoke of continuing defensive issues.
On a positive note, things had improved by the time England arrived at Parc y Scarlets.
That game saw a big, big defensive effort from the men in red, with new boy James Botham leading the way with 18 tackles and another fresh face, Johnny Williams, really making his presence felt.
So signs of hope there, while the return of Dan Lydiate and Josh Navidi will add significant clout to the rearguard.
Pivac has been looking for a big hitter and Lydiate is certainly that. He is likely to have a big role to play against the assortment of Irish carriers come Sunday.
The try tally during the autumn doesn’t make for great reading.
Two against France, one versus Scotland, none in Dublin, one against England and two in the Georgian game.
When Pivac and Stephen Jones took the helm, there was much talk of them implementing the exhilarating attacking play they had overseen at the Scarlets.
And things certainly started promisingly, with their first competitive match in charge, last year’s Six Nations opener against Italy, bringing five tries in a 42-0 rout.
While there were defeats to follow, there were still positive signs in attack.
The six phases that led up to Tomos Williams’ try against Ireland and the sparkling handling ahead of Justin Tipuric’s score at Twickenham seemed to point to where Wales wanted to get to in terms of a more free-flowing, swashbuckling style.
But, come the autumn and there was an alarming regression.
The attack stalled and spluttered and it was hard to understand exactly what the game plan was.
One of the big problems was they had so little decent ball to work off.
Their set-piece platform was non-existent for much of the time and the turnover ball which Pivac’s Scarlets had prospered off had dried up to a trickle.
There was precious little go-forward either, with Wales lacking the ball carriers to cross the gain-line.
The old mantra of you have to go forward to go wide remains a truism and they weren’t able to do either.
You only have to consider the fact that arch predator Josh Adams hasn’t scored a Test try for a year now to see the problems.
He was a mere bystander for much of the autumn, seeing practically no ball and having little chance to show what we all know he can do.
Of course, he will be even more of a bystander for the next two matches!
So, anything positive to report, I hear you say?
Well, yes. The final autumn Test did provide hope.
Admittedly the opposition were pretty dire, but there was more attacking shape and potency to the Welsh game.
Much of that was down to the lethal Tipuric-Faletau double act. The key difference was they were now being utilised closer to the action, rather than standing redundant in wider channels.
It meant they were able to get their hands on the ball more and work their magic. The result was them contributing significantly to a five-try display.
There are other attacking bright spots in the introduction of Johnny Williams and Louis Rees-Zammit.
Williams has the ability to provide a focal point with his carrying at 12, as well as having good hands, while Rees-Zammit, now into his twenties, has that X-factor out wide and will beat defenders if given the chance.
Having the gifted Tomos Williams back fit and George North rejuvenated are further plusses.
With Josh Adams joining Liam Williams in being suspended, it now looks odds on that North and Rees-Zammit will occupy the wing berths either side of Leigh Halfpenny, with Jonathan Davies partnering Johnny Williams in the centre.
There are varying options at 10 in Dan Biggar, Callum Sheedy and Jarrod Evans, so we wait to see what Pivac will plump for there, with Biggar having tended to be his go-to man so far during his tenure.
Overall, if the improved template against Italy can be built on and the strike runners brought into the game more, there is reason for optimism.
But, of course, it all hinges on that forward foundation, which brings us full circle.
-- to www.walesonline.co.uk