After losing to Ireland (34-10) in his first game in charge, Warren Gatland has nailed his colors firmly to the pole.
He insists he can fix what went wrong. So what exactly needs to be fixed and what are your chances of getting it done in time for Saturday’s clash with Scotland at Murrayfield?
These are problems that need to be faced.
Lots of missed entries and lost entries
Perhaps the most worrying stat after Saturday’s Six Nations at Principality Stadium was that Wales conceded no fewer than 33 tackles.
Wales v Ireland winners and losers, young guns to excite, but Gatland faces a world of challenges
A bill like this was hardly seen during Gatland’s previous 11-year reign at the helm, when Shaun Edwards was in charge of defence. So what exactly were the problems with the Welsh rear? Well, the attempts given are always a good place to start and are instructive.
Of course, James Lowe’s intercept count speaks for itself, but the other three touchdowns deserve a closer look.
In each case, Wales planted the seeds of his own demise by putting pressure on himself. It all started with the opening whistle, when Tomos Williams couldn’t find touch after Johnny Sexton’s kick. Then, when Ireland crossed the ball to the other side of the pitch and knocked Lowe’s tram down, the Wales match was again misguided by the combination of Liam Williams and Josh Adams under pressure.
The end result was an Irish lineup ahead of 22, and that spells danger. It happened like this. Wales held on to the opening goal but simply had no answer to what followed in the form of a series of powerful forwards, the key of which was blocking James Ryan, who brought the game to the line ahead of Kelan Dorris, that went up among them. George North and Liam Williams.
Today’s game is all about collisions, and in this opening exchange Wales came second.
A second try after nine minutes was another example of the Gatland side initially succumbing to pressure and then losing these clashes. Out of play on the Irish 10m line, they ended up defending a line outside their own 22. So it was all about the winning line and Ireland’s relentless ability to cross it through the Ringrose turn, the strength of Sheehan and Porter in the first line. , bow shot by Hugo Keenan.
This brought Welsh to 22 and they were not to be without a point. Another succession of power forwards led to another offside penalty and the resulting push was all too easy as Sheehan and Doris passed Ryan, who exploded between Joe Hawkins and George North in a low shot towards the line, with his teammate in second. Row Beirne clung to the support. Hear the Fields of Athenry choirs.
Then finally there was a bonus point attempt with eight minutes to go. It was a very similar story. Substitute Owen Williams fired inside the penalty area, allowing Hugo Keenan to launch a counterattack from his own half, a counterattack that Wales simply could not contain.
It was a great example of how to get a result from the Irish as they showed patience, composure and plenty of skill as they fought their way through 15 stages to finally get a man’s back after Liam Williams’ sins.
They steadily advanced down the field, switching forwards and defenders to gain yards. There were two side-door volleys from Mack Hansen to Sheehan who gained an exhibition position and then the end went to Josh van der Flier’s footwork as he slotted in between Rhys Carre and Joe Hawkins. it was work
So where does that leave Wales? It should be noted that new defensive backs coach Mike Forshaw has had very limited sessions since taking over. It takes time to implement models and policies.
It’s also fair to say that there was an improvement in the pace of the defensive line in the second half. Undoubtedly, this must be the way forward, being fundamental the attitude and aggressiveness in the contact zone.
You can’t repeat the first quarter against the Irish, where the men in green dominated the tackles and entered the field with obscene ease.
There can also be no more free kicks and inefficient runs, especially with the likes of Duane van der Merwe and Stuart Hogg waiting in the Scottish backfield.
Gatland is expected to earn those points this week.
You also wonder if Tommy Raffell can create more competition for the ball by slowing down and taking possession, negating the quick turnovers that were instrumental in the Irish breaking through the Welsh defence.
Be relentless in seizing opportunities to try
Saturday’s clash in Cardiff provided a clear indication of where Wales need to go in terms of attacking play. It was provided by your guests.
Ireland made nine tackles against 22 and left with four tries and two misses: 34 points.
Unlike Wales, he went 11 innings but scored just one try. This is a brief history of the game.
We watched how the Irish were clinical in the red zone with a combination of patience and strength. As for Wales, unfortunately it was a story of missed chances. They had opportunities, but they didn’t know how to take advantage of them.
Hugo Keenan passed Rio Dyer after a shot and then Lowe intercepted a pass from Dan Biggar to Liam Williams after the home team’s first massive pass threatened to be blocked.
Wales should have scored next in the 23rd minute when Joe Hawkins fired on goal, but Biggar was unable to clear the ball from Josh Adams, was fouled by Ringrose and penalized for holding when Lowe snarled at him.
There would be other ‘if onlys’ when Justin Tipuric was choked and held close to the Irish line, triggering a green scrum, while the winger’s late pass to Dyer was too high after a difficult break from Liam Williams.
After Dier found Sexton’s speculative cross and got inside at the 22-yard line, the drive was stopped when Josh Adams fumbled the tackle after getting to him with speed.
Often the Welsh attacked wildly and frantically, amid forced passes, the ball rolling on contact and poor choices when the Irish required patience and composure.
The Gatland side conceded an impressive 14 turnovers, indicating a lack of accuracy and defense, and there were three failed set-pieces in the early positions, which really destroyed momentum.
The only try they scored was very well received. There was a lot of innovation on the short-range line, with full-backs Tomos Williams, Josh Adams and George North the three unlikely strikers, the ball being dropped into North’s centre.
Then, after a powerful run to the line of Alun Wyn Jones and Ken Owens, the key was fast hands from the impressive Joe Hawkins, who allowed Biggar to pull Liam Williams out of the gap.
Creativity, strong transfers, fast hits and good hands. It was good to see that. Unfortunately, this turned out to be the exception rather than the norm.
So new striker coach Alex King has plenty to work on ahead of the trip to Edinburgh.
Win a Welsh Six Nations rugby shirt below. You can also access here.
The fastball should be the main target more often as it has been common and slow most of the time. Improving dispatch efficiency should be a priority in terms of speed of delivery and reduced turnover. Therefore, it is about finding a clinical advantage that complements the work of a dignified approach.
If Wales hadn’t created chances, the concern would have been even greater. They created them, now they need to be taken away.
Reduce the number of fines.
Teams often aim for a single-digit penalty count. Well, Wales gave up nine before half-time, so they had little chance of getting there.
Five of them were conceded in the first ten minutes after two Irish tries. As Gatland later said, he gave Ireland an early boost, allowing them to put Wales “under the bomb”. He also noted that a series of penalties was “unnecessary” and his point could be seen in players going out of play or ignoring the referee’s warnings on the foul.
He simply offered the Irish a pig and they headed for the line.
Wales have conceded 15 penalties and reducing that number will be a priority going forward. On the positive side, as with the defence, there has been an improvement in the second half and discipline should be evident from the start at Murrayfield.
Sort the line of pain
Without a solid set-piece platform it was always going to be a struggle and there were too many changes to be comfortable against the Irish.
The Welsh scrum came under heavy pressure in the first quarter, conceding a penalty which allowed Sexton to make it 17–3.
In terms of setup, there were three major failures to secure ball possession: shots that were too long, indirect shots or because the ball was deflected. As a result, the main opportunities for attacking opponent 22 disappeared, and the air flew out of the balloon.
Therefore, the set needs to be revised. There will be at least one team change in that department, and second-row Alan Wyn Jones will not have passed the ACL. Youngster Dafydd Jenkins would seem the most likely candidate to replace him, as he has made an athletic impact off the bench, although Gatland could once again use an Ospreys-only boiler room, opting for Rhys Davies alongside Adam Bird.
We’re waiting to see if there will be changes on the front line as well, with tight end Thomas Francis undergoing trials with a calf injury. If ruled out, expect Dillon Lewis to wear the number 3, with Leon Brown as a backup. None of them played much rugby, so they’ll have to dig deeper.
If there’s also a shift in defense with Tommy Raffel in the starting lineup, that will have to do with business as usual, with Justin Tipuric, the man likely to stand out, a key option in the lineup. Lots to think about when choosing.
Whatever the composition of the team, there is obviously a lot of work to be done in the training camp to create a more stable and consistent early stage platform.
It’s going to be a busy week!
Source: Wales Online
I’m George Gonzalez, a professional journalist and author at The Nation View. With more than 5 years of experience in the field, I specialize in covering sports news for various print media outlets. My passion for writing has enabled me to craft stories that capture the attention of readers all over the world.