Wednesday, 20 February 2013
Are Wales finding themselves?
So after two weeks of RBS Six Nations Rugby to digest it's not entirely unrealistic that Wales could turn their championship around and make a stern defence of their much coveted title. After the opening weekend when Wales were completely outclassed on their own turf you would be forgiven for thinking that after 8 consecutive defeats and with 5 of them being at home that the players have lulled into a false sense of security. Yes... There was hope at the Millenium stadium but there has been in the past, should have beaten Australia is a call whispered all the time considering the last 4 games have been won by Australia with an average 5 points difference, but right at this moment Wales need to turn hope into glory.
We know as a country that we just can't beat the Southern Hemisphere supergiants with ease it's not going to happen. There are many issues for this one being all their players are playing in their own league and also the standard of rugby is of a higher level rather than test rugby. Wales get close to bridging the gap but it's always a case of one step forward and two back. The Autumn went from the dissapointment of not winning a test out in Aus to not even registering a win at home in the subsequent fixtures. It's not the fact that Wales lost it's the manner in which they did. Players falling off tackles and just not clicking, This Wales team has been together for years not days something wasn't right.
It truly was the Autumn of discontent for Wales and it left a sour taste in every proud Welshperson's mouth. Yet we entered the Six Nations full of optimism and endeavour although has it really been justified yet that's the reason for backstory. Wales lost at home again YES and whether it be encouraging to come back the way they did it still doesn't give a cause for optimism because they shouldn't have to be down by 30 points to start playing rugby. You wouldn't expect it in your local league let alone at International standard. The thing for me which is baffling is that this problem we have is very similar to those a few years ago
We seem to lack a distictive line breaker despite the fact we have all the strength we lack the cutting edge required to break through a line of defence so the players like George North and Alex Cuthbert can revel in because as fast as these guys are they won't run you 80 metres and scythe through a gap at the will of speed like in the past with the likes of Shane Williams and Mark Jones. The game is constantly changing and the emphasis is on muscle and strength rather than speed so the bigger guy so to speak is more ideal in today's sport. Wales as an attacking force seem to lack from open play, they have the lowest line breaks in the Six Nations after 2 games which considering other sides is interesting to say the least. Welsh ideology is to simply run through a player rather than around him or inside him.
Also another thing to worry about is that so far the scrum has been exposed as a weakness in the Welsh armour which was normally seen as a strength, after struggling against Ireland and France it's safe to say the Lions front 3 isn't the force it used to be and also injuries and players off form are playing a pivotal role in the struggle of this Welsh side. The second row is decimated by injuries with Alyn Wyn Jones, Luke Charteris and Bradley Davies all out injured all those would be confirmed starters more or less. Ian Evans was forced into action earlier than he might have liked to make up for the in-experience of Andrew Coombs making his first forest into International Rugby, it's safe to say he's starting to look a piece of the furniture rather than a stand in.
Then there is the backrow Sam Warbutton is a very good player but he seems to be lacking in confidence and form and it's starting put more pressure on him and it's really got to him, which with the emergence of Justin Tipuric has all contributed to a Welsh struggle in a backrow which was much vaunted in the World Cup 2011. Dan Lydiate is a huge miss at no6 his work rate and tackle and carry success is almost ummatched worldwide. Toby Faletau has been impressing in the number 8 role and has carried as well as anyone in the tournament so far his consistency is key.
When Wales lost 30-22 at home to Ireland alarm bells were ringing again it showed the deficency's that came out in the Autumn and exposed by an Irish well oiled machine. It just seemed like Wales were almost scared to make a mistake and didn't put everything into the tackle area and especially at breakdown.
The call for Howley's head came and what we must remember is that Ireland took their foot off the gas which is not taking it away from Wales but the same intensity wasn't maintained until it was really needed. Then heading to France seemed like two sides looking for a shot at re-deemption after Le Blues losing to Italy. To cut a long story short it was a mild game with both sides struggling for inspiration and not wanting to lose caused France to look within themselves and Dan Biggar's kick to the corner finding George North and (his dad) on the wing such to the Welsh public's suprise a win was gained in the most unlikely of places.What Wales need to do in the next games against Italy, Scotland and England is develop themselves as an attacking force and really put a team under pressure because of their sheer size and strength. Viva Wales...