Wales have had an ace start to the 6 Nations in terms of results, beating France and then going back to back to dispatch Italy. They will now face a more daunting task as they prepare to take on the also undefeated England. Wales’ results thus far may look rosy on paper, but there are some growing game-management concerns that Warren Gatland needs to address. In our last article on Wales, we discussed 3 factors that could deliver them a 6 Nations victory. Here, we will look at whether they are on track to achieve that by studying the Italy v Wales tactics.
Italy v Wales Tactics | Wales game management headaches
Wales did not play their best team in this game, and the scoreline reflected that to some extent. However, there were some strange decisions made in this test match that looked out of place. Let’s start with this kick.
Wales are just 9-0 up here, and try an attacking kick in their own 22. Even if this had come off, it’s a 50/50 play in a must-win test match.
This next one comes off the side of the boot from Adams, but the decision to kick immediately is a strange one.
Wales will need calmer heads as they start taking on the historically stronger teams in upcoming fixtures. The argument could be made of course that they are trying some things out against Italy. But this should have been a dress rehearsal of their game-plan for England next round. And considering they made similar decisions last round as well, the signs are worrying.
If you would like to get insight into Wales decision-making against France, you can check out the article below.
Now let’s look at some positive signs that Wales are in fact on the right track.
Italy v Wales Tactics | The killer instinct returns
You couldn’t fault the heart from Wales during their win over France last round. Although they weren’t playing their best, the Welsh leaders took charge of the performance and ensured they were ahead on the scoreboard at the final whistle. This try is a great example of Wales flicking the switch when it mattered, and putting a team away.
Here’s the set-up.
You might notice that Italy have no sweeper here behind the line. They have also rushed Anscombe to protect their try-line.
Here’s what happens next.
Wales were still only 9 points ahead when this try was scored in the 69th minute. The players are not content to rest on that lead, and they chase this kick with impressive urgency. There is always fight in Wales, no matter what sort of form they are in. While their game management is sometimes questionable, their mental strength isn’t.
This is further exemplified by the impact their bench made in this game.
Italy v Wales Tactics | Why Wales could perform better than expected against England
While it’s not an excuse for an average performance, we have to consider the fact that this was basically a Wales B team. However once their bench came on, Wales were able to switch up a gear.
Let’s see what Alun Wyn Jones gets up to after he makes an appearance in the 51st minute.
He makes a pass to put Beard through a half-gap. He then clears the ruck with a beautiful crocodile roll, and Wales have the quick ball they need to go wide and score.
Williams does well to brush Hayward aside, but we all know the real work was done by the man himself AWJ earlier in the play.
We have also already seen Anscombe set up a try, and he appears to have adapted and improved from last round to his credit. Here he puts in a deft Banana kick here after coming off the bench.
Anscombe seems to be a player that needs to play well from the start and get on a roll at this level. Thankfully in this game, he showed he still has a bag of tricks that Wales can use.
So can Wales beat England to keep their unbeaten streak alive? Yes. But they will need to improve their game management dramatically and hope all of their big players stand up for the occasion. No doubt Gatland is already planning his strategy, and we will have to wait and see whether he can compete with Eddie Jones’ tactical brilliance so far.
The 1014 Rugby reviewed Wales performance in significant detail over on their YouTube channel. See the following video for more information.
Can Wales pull off an upset at home next round? Let us know your thoughts.
Author: The 1014 Rugby and Henry Stokes