We have discussed how Wales used two forms of attack to beat Scotland, and now it’s time to look at their two forms of defence. The following clips provide an interesting glimpse into how an international side varies their defence depending on the situation. When conducting our Scotland v Wales analysis we discovered a subtle switch in structure.
Let’s find out why Gatland would want to switch systems during open play.
The Classic Rush Defence | Scotland v Wales Analysis
Like many other teams in recent history, Wales use a variation of the rush defence. This is expected from the coach who deployed a notorious rush defence to inspire the Lions to a series draw with the All Blacks.
It starts with this compressed setup below. Notice how Wales don’t field anyone behind the 15m line on the far side.
This is standard operating procedure so far. As below, the point of this is to stop the third pass and stop Scotland from getting past the centre of the pitch.
But Wales only use this flat rush defence in one specific situation. When the play starts near the side-line.
As soon as the ball goes wide, they switch to a scrambling, sliding defence. Continuing on from the previous clip, Scotland beat the rush defence by getting the third pass away. Wales immediately slide across and Davies makes the cover tackle.
So this is how a rush defence operates usually when it gets beaten, but things get interesting when Wales are presented with a midfield ruck instead of a sideline one.
The Situational Slide | Scotland v Wales Analysis
Carrying on from the earlier play, Scotland come back across the field. This time they can’t beat the rush defence and a ruck forms in midfield.
As this ruck is in midfield, Wales switch their approach and hold their line. They start sliding towards the end of the below clip, using the sideline as an extra defender.
Now the ruck is back by the sideline, the rush defence starts again. Wales rush up and apply pressure.
It’s difficult to spot the difference, but a rush defence stays very straight and the players mark the outside shoulder of the attackers. A sliding defence may look like a rush defence at first but the players mark the inside shoulder of the attackers, ushering them towards the sideline.
We can see this difference below. There is another ruck in midfield now, meaning Wales switch to their sliding defence. Notice how all the players turn outward slightly and stop rushing forward. This is to encourage Scotland to pass it wide and run out of space near the sideline.
Scotland do well to hold the Welsh defence by running straight.
Do you think this is a conscious choice that Gatland has implemented? It would be fitting they’re using two systems in defence, as they are most certainly using two systems in attack as we have detailed in the below article.
One aspect that was clear cut in this game was Wales’ impressive aggression in contact.
Aggression In Contact | Scotland v Wales Analysis
We know from both England and South Africa this season that contact matters just as much as defensive structure. Wales were very efficient in this area against Scotland, working together to slow the life out of the ball.
Here Tipuric and Parkes ensure Scotland can’t form a ruck, and they even manage to strip the ball free.
This teamwork strikes a similar tone to the Roman Legion approach taken by Ireland. Every player is interchangeable and expected to perform like a loose forward across the park.
Tipuric is really coming into his own of late to fill Warburton’s giant shoes and he was ruthless in this game. He pops up again below to slow the ball to a snail’s pace. After making the tackle he makes a nuisance of himself while his team-mates follow his example.
It’s almost comical watching Graham continuously crawl to escape the Welsh onslaught, but it shows Wales have the physicality to match any side.
What are Wales’ chances of winning a Grand Slam? Let us know your thoughts.
Author: The 1014 Rugby and Henry Stokes