Ladies and Gentlemen, I did not expect this. Wales were brilliant today. Fast, full of endeavour, their handling was crisp, their timing of their runs on point, their lines good and their alignment; Oh, their alignment was something else. Something very special.

They still forced things, but not to the level they were forced in the Autumn.

Now, these injuries have added a dynamic to this Welsh team. Later this week, the Wales series will be released (much the same as the English and Irish series’). The individual skills in the Autumn, and over the course of last year left much to be desired. This is reflected in the series. The lines were crabby, the distribution and offloads forced, the timing not on point. However, these problems did not exist during this game. Two weeks in camp, as good as that is, is not enough to cover up these fundamentals.

I attribute the quick turnaround, to the collective skills and understanding, amongst the Scarlets.

Scotland did not perform well in this game. Their defensive structure was appalling. But, it cannot take away a brilliant performance from Wales. This won’t be an analysis, but we will look at areas where the traits of the Scarlets sent Wales through the roof for this game.

Alignment

A lot of the good things that Wales did came from their alignment. The Scarlets, are a flat playing team. and they are comfortable being in the faces of their opposition. Ten of the team was made up by this franchise and as such, they presented a new dynamic that I have never seen in the Gatland era.

Their layers of attack ran flat to each other. It was beautiful. Gareth Davies was scooting to hold the fringe D to create space on the wings. The passes from Patchell were so flat and so varied to receivers already at the line, the Scots couldn’t react in time. This does not make up for some very poor defending. But this variety and alignment is exactly what Wales have been missing. Biggar, for all his skills, does not possess this. Seeing how well the Welsh system works with the right players, Wales may want to think about keeping Patchell at 10.

They played both sides of the ruck and switched. Hadleigh Parkes stepped into 1st receiver on multiple occasions and he will become a key player for Wales. He offers that 12 physicality Gatland likes, but, his hands and rugby intelligence are very subtle and very astute. Scott Williams also found himself at 1st receiver multiple times. This offers a very good 10-12 axis. The fact it can be perfected at the regional level is an added bonus. So much so it should be encouraged and is a huge reason to continue with it.

Flat to the line

Wales v Scotland, flat passing 1

Look at the above. They take it static, which is a criticism I have laid bare in the upcoming series. But, and this is a huge but; look at how flat they are, interesting the defence for a rush. On top of that, Navidi (number 7, red dot) is not flat enough so he can remain an effective decoy and behind him, Patchell (red dot) is at a depth that he can assess his options and get the pass away without being smashed.

The Forward pod gets the pass away to Patchell (red dot behind Navidi). Patchell uses his instincts of playing 15 to take the ball to the line.

The next slide is beautiful. Absolute poetry in motion.

When, have we seen that from Wales?

Look at that pass, and how flat it is. On top of that look at the two layers of attack (yellow and blue dots) and how flat they are to each other, to increase the chances of getting around a drift. Patchell has options in both. Even with more defenders, this is a huge gain on the gain line. He has taken the ball to the line and shot a lovely miss pass to a player literally a metre behind him. This player takes the ball in two hands creating more defensive questions. The result of his break and pass takes Wales to the 22. It is beautiful play!

Try Example

Here we have the 1st 3 pod. There’s nothing much on here. They take it static. And go to ground.

Wales v Scotland

Quick ball is generated and the ball is fired out to the 2nd 3 pod. Whom though flat, are running hard and have options behind. We can see Wyn Jones highlighted as the 1 pod option.

Parkes and another forward join Wyn Jones to make a 3 pod, the receiver passes out back, again, to a ballplayer in Scotttt Williams. It must be said, that this is poor Scottish defence; but credit must go to Wales for identifying the space though.

Williams fires the ball out to a beautifully flat line. The try is scored by Leigh Halfpenny, who had a great game.

The beauty here is they ran the ballplayer behind the 3 pod in the Autumn. But the alignment was all wrong (as you will see in depth in this week’s Welsh series). Here, however, it’s perfect. The Scarlets are happy playing this flat, which has translated over to the national team. This does not always happen, but when translations like this occur they can be devastating for the opposition.

Forward play and switching the point of attack

The Forwards intent at the pods was so much better. So much better than the Autumn. They were fast, running onto the ball and the interplay between the pods and backs was brilliant. However, they have incorporated switching the point of attack into their pods as well. It will not work as well against constricted defences like Ireland or England but this shows their intent brilliantly.

The ball is passed to Alun Wyn (yellow dot, circled in red), who sees the dogleg forming. The dogleg is being formed by the defender (purple dot) rushing out of the line.

A quick pop pass and his outside carrier is through (in the direction of the arrow). Quick thinking from Jones in the moment (who is circled and being tackled by the man who created the dogleg). This nets Wales a 5-10 metre gain.

Poor defence from Scotland. But good thinking and hands.

One phase later Patchell passes and sets up his 2nd 3 pod (circled in red). He passes late and flat, and as such, the pod run onto the ball flat.

Lee, at the top of the pod, having committed men pops the pass straight to Moriarty (running in on the arrow).

The Scottish defence in this game was not the best. But the Scarlets and their play into the Welsh gameplan, has taken like a duck to water. Is this the best Welsh team? Too early to say. But with the right players for the roles the system is looking good.

Author: Conor Wilson

I split my social time between jumping out of planes, running, going away with the Army, and coaching and playing the beautiful game of Rugby.

Joe Schmidt, Will Greenwood and Rod MacQueen are my heroes, and my proudest moment was putting Jason Robinson in for a try at the Samsung School of Rugby. It was truly beautiful.

19 COMMENTS

  1. Good day Conor,

    i really have to admit that the more the wales match kept on playing the more the word consistency was coming up in my head to describe the welsh rugby yesterday
    As for scotland the display was very poor especially in defense where they have been truly and badly exposed by these flat runs

    To be honest, a team needs some particular skills to play in such way and wales has

  2. Great article. And what a game. It was absolutely amazing. Wales usually play awful in the first game but for once we got out of the starting blocks. Tough game up next but I think we’re all a bit more confident than before now. Once again amazing article.

  3. I think playing the Scarlets way rather than going at them in the forwards caught Scotland out. The early selection of so many Scarlets seemed to signal Gatland wanted to play this way, but the side was still clearly capable of playing tight too. Scotland had such obvious problems in the tight 5. I believe Scotland expected something closer to Warrenball and despite talk of the Scarlets style rugby, I think they guessed it would be temporarily shelved. I really don’t think they expected Wales to beat them at their own game. I will be interested to see how well this style goes against the far better defences employed by Ireland, France and England.

    • Agreed in a lot of comments there Dan. They probably expected the forwards to keep it tight. But simply put the Welsh pack gave the backs such a good platform they went out and did what came naturally. Which was Scarlets ethos rugby.

      I think from my point of view. Scotland would’ve expected the 1-3-3-1. But the simple fact is, they would not have expected it to be done so well. The November analysis showed Wales using it but very very inefficiently. Wales loaded their team with players who have good attacking instincts and know their fundementals. That made this system Wales 3.0 in comparison to November, leaving Scotland consistently dumbfounded. But yes. Against less porous defences, this will be interesting indeed.

  4. Great article Connor. I was at the game yesterday and the overiding impression I had was the suffocating Wales defence. I was shocked that Wales kicked long and not to touch, almost inviting Scotland to try things, then shutting them down. You could see the pressure building on Scotland, it seemed like they felt that had to try and score with any possession (slow or fast, usually slow). Gatland must take credit for having the guts to go with the Scarlets way, he may be stubborn, but he’s not stupid. People seem to forget sometimes what a great coaching record he has. Wales don’t have the depth of other nations and are still struggling with the regional trying to escape the parochial nature of Welsh rugby. As for Scotland, they must come up with a plan B, but I hope this setback does not stop them from trying to play the way they have been. It will take setbacks like yesterday to prepare themselves for tight games in the future when they won’t be allowed to play thier natural game
    Cheers
    Rob

  5. Good value as always Conor.

    What a wake up call for Scotland, a mid season Shaun Edwards defence away is a very different prospect to a tired Southern Hemisphere defence at home. They lacked control and were far too lateral, a bit like the Crusaders or Leicester under Aaron Mauger.

    Surely Pivac needs to be the next Wales coach, he seems to have played a massive part in transforming Welsh rugby. Patchell looks like he could be the first proper Welsh 10 since JD1 and there was a good flow to the attack, even if they also lacked control at times.

    Now they need to do it away from home against a better forward pack.

    • I love the idea for Pivac as Wales Coach JD. The guy clearly knows the Welsh DNA and has done wonders. I love the look of Patchell and just the general 9-10-12-13. Being Scarlets they brought their game to bear.

      He would need developing to play consistent test match rugby against the very best. But one of the best calls i’d say. As he can clearly develop a team.

    • Yeah Pivac is a must for next Head coach atm. And dont forget Stephen Jones is the Backs coach there. So some of this credit at Scarlets must also go to him. So both of them are musts in 2 years.

      • Great call re Jones. I can’t imagine Pivac would dream of coaching Wales without him.

        But I’m not going to let facts get in the way of my prejudices. It’s the New Zealander who made all the difference, the New Zealander I say!

  6. Some big players who compliment this style coming back too, Jonathan Davies, Liam Williams and Faletau could take this side up another notch.

  7. cant wait to see this side this weekend against England it will be a huge test to see how well they do ,, could upset a lot of bookies ,,

    win or loose just play well and keep it close as i have a feeling this could be another 2015 at twickers ,,, the english clubs who have played the scarlet’s know it and there now infiused with the best of wales Navdi , josh adams , AWJ , just to name a few ,,

    • You have your gut feeling and as an Englishman I have mine 😉 Its just whether the Scarlets way can work in proper test match footy. Club rugby is far removed from proper test match footy. Wales vs Scotland was almost like Scarlets vs Glasgow. Against the best 3 teams in the world and the like. The Pods won’t get the go forward they had against Scotland so easily.

      Hopefully, the winning habit and Twickenham factor will help in our stead. Expect to see England raise it to Brumbies pace in a way not seen under EJ this week. Set Piece orientated. With occasional passages of incredibly fast rugby to get their points. Regardless it’ll be a good game.

  8. Excellent stuff Conor. A little pedantry on the names just because it has the potential to be confusing.

    Alun Wyn Jones – Alun Wyn are his first names, like in Billy Bob Thornton. Creating a double barrel surname like Wyn Jones gets more complicated as that’s the name of the replacement prop from the Scarlets. So in your description of the second try at 7-0 up you are crediting him before he came on the pitch.

    Us Joneses are to blame but it’s best to either use Alun Wyn or abbreviate it to AWJ . 🙂

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