Although Wales use the same systems as most of their 6 Nations counterparts, they are different in a few key areas. For a 6 Nations victory to eventuate for Wales, Warren Gatland must ensure they play up these differences and build upon them. The first factor is all about the Welsh forwards adapting to certain situations.
How Wales’ forwards could deliver a 6 Nations Victory
Let’s look at the ability of the Welsh forwards to play heads-up rugby and make pressure decisions. This is in stark contrast to some of the other more structured teams, who need to have a pre-planned moves in place for their forwards to make a play at the right time.
Here is a great example of a Welsh forward making a decision against the script.
Jenkins (yellow circle) has two passing options, with the short pass to his supporting runner being the obvious choice. South Africa have come up fast and formed an umbrella defence to stop Wales getting the ball wide.
However, Jenkins thinks on his feet and makes a different decision.
He breaks from the pre-conceived move and sells a dummy pass. The Springboks defenders are caught napping, and Francis runs a great support line to score. This is heads-up rugby at it’s best, and something the Welsh seem to excel at. And it gets better.
In this example, Wales’ no.8 Moriarty adapts to the situation and runs a line more typical of a centre than a loose forward. He sees space between the red and blue circled players below and receives a flat ball to eat up precious metres.
With a forward pack that can break from the mould of the 1-3-3-1 when necessary, Wales can feed off them with their other talented players. One such talent is Jonathan Davies, and he is factor number 2.
How Jonathan Davies could deliver Wales a 6 Nations Victory
Jonathan Davies plays a crucial role in the Welsh midfield. Watch here as Moriarty (yellow circle) again runs a great line to give Davies space. George North can be seen coming around the back to create even more confusion amongst the Scottish defence.
Davies now has a hole in front of him and can do what he does best. He alters his line slightly, sticks out a powerful fend and makes the break. Only a world class 13 can execute this play at this level.
Here instead of taking the ball, Davies holds up two defenders to put the equally in-form George North in for a try.
For Wales to achieve a 6 Nations victory, these two players in particular will need to be creating holes once again. However for Wales to get close to grand slam territory they will have to compete with Ireland’s perfect breakdown, which is detailed in the article below.
This brings us to the final factor in a 6 Nations victory for Wales.
How breakdown specialists could deliver Wales a 6 Nations Victory
In the absence of Sam Warburton, you might think Wales would have lost some turnover capabilities. But Warren Gatland has made sure that his squad continue to match breakdown skills with the best teams on the planet. Here Tipuric is only given a millisecond to jackal, and manages to win a penalty for his country.
In the next clip, Lydiate also pulls off some breakdown manoeuvres to get into position for the jackal.
Wales have an army of back rowers to call upon for play like this. And if they can slow teams down consistently, they will put themselves in the running.
With Ireland clearly in-form, a Welsh 6 Nations victory may seem impossible. But there is always a probability. If their forwards can play heads up rugby under pressure and give Davies and North a platform to work from, a return to the glory days of 2012/2013 is possible. You can never count out a Gatland coached side.
The 1014 Rugby look at the form of each Six Nations side heading into this year’s tournament over on their YouTube channel. See the following video for more information.
Can Wales actually win the 6 Nations, or will they be outclassed? Let us know your thoughts.
Author: The 1014 Rugby and Henry Stokes