Wales’ victory over Ireland to win a Grand Slam was a testament to sheer determination and the will to win. A look at their tactics reveals a return to an old brand of Rugby that Ireland’s computer code-like systems were not prepared for.
You’re about to witness what happens when careful planning is blindsided by passion, and we will finish with a roof-raising moment from a Welsh legend.
Wales’ Classic Grand Slam Tactics | Anscombe’s slice-chip kick
Okay, so this first tactic isn’t as old-school as the ones we will get to soon. But it is a superb piece of individual skill, and I couldn’t leave this try out.
The Irish no. 9 Conor Murray in the red circle below is defending up in the line, instead of sweeping across behind the line. Anscombe takes full advantage of this with a deftly placed chip kick off the outside of the boot.
What makes this work is Anscombe’s positioning. He turns his entire body like he is about to pass, then almost slices the kick off the boot. The Irish are not expecting this, and Parkes has just enough room to snatch the ball out of the air and dot down for the opening try.
After this Wales would begin imposing themselves on the game by taking the term ‘physicality’ to the next level.
Wales’ Classic Grand Slam Tactics | Disruption By Any Means Necessary
New Zealand and South Africa are known for their massive physicality and presence around the park. Last season, Ireland fronted up physically to beat them both. And that adds huge significance to what Wales did to the Irish in this game.
This second tactic all starts at the moment of contact. We have spoken about the significance of metres after contact when attacking before, and Wales aren’t having a bar of it. Watch as their captain leads a team tackle, denying Ireland the advantage line.
The ball comes wide in the clip below and Wales use another team tackle to protect their advantage line. This is when their next tactic reveals itself. It’s a stealthy move the Springboks used to beat the All Blacks and it’s known as the long-body position.
You’ll notice Moriarty lying all over the Irish side of the ruck.
Whether intentional or not, He is now stretched out across the path of the Irish no. 9, slowing the ball down. We will get back to this soon.
The Disruption Continues. . .
As play goes on Wales continue to make a nuisance of themselves at every juncture. They’re playing gritty, disruptive, old-school rugby. Here they attack the ruck at the last second, causing back-foot ball for the Irish which they happily pounce on.
The long-body position would continue to make regular appearances throughout the game. Below Alun Wyn Jones makes the tackle with Moriarty again ending up on the wrong side.
If you had any doubt this was an intentional tactic, this next clip should put it to rest. Rob Evans (red circle) pushes his opposite number onto the ruck, knocking Murray off balance. Moriarty then decides to roll away at the most disruptive time possible.
To see how the Springboks developed the long-body position to beat the All Blacks, check out the article below. It works even better on Aaron Smith.
Wales’ mix of intelligence and aggression would extend further outfield as well. Watch this perfect hit from Davies to defuse an Irish overlap.
Wales clearly always had the willpower to win by any means necessary, but Ireland’s world-beating set piece was a still a looming threat. Here’s how they shut that down as well.
Wales’ Classic Grand Slam Tactics | Stopping The Irish Lineout
Gatland had clearly done his homework in this area and assigned lock Adam Beard to be the enforcer. He battled his way through many mauls, grabbing on to anything that would slow Ireland down.
Beard would take this a step further by even grabbing hold of Conor Murray, seriously damaging Ireland’s platform.
And that brings us to a roof-raising moment at the Principality.
Wales steal the below lineout altogether, allowing a legendary figure to storm up the centre of the park, dragging four Irish players with him. An Iconic Six Nations moment.
Can Wales extend their winning run all the way to the World Cup final? Let us know down below.
Author: The 1014 Rugby and Henry Stokes