This article shows Wales’ keenness on moving the ball wide. It also illustrates that the players need change only one thing in order for it to become fully effective.
In the following example, we know the call that was made is correct. Why? Because it resulted in a try. However, the running angles of the players need to improve, particularly in the back line. This might sound like nit-picking but it is so important. And I genuinely believe if it occurs Wales will take their game to a new level.
Hard running straight lines are needed in this facet of the Wales game. Particularly in wide-wide play.
This situation is brought about by a break off setpiece, therefore, Biggar as 10, had his backline fully lined up, with no forwards outside him. Usually, to hold defences in phase play, even if you go wide, you need some forwards along the openside integrated in the backline who can check a defence.
We see it with Ireland in their 3-3-Looper plays. The backline portion is often used without a forward, and it means there is a long way for the ball to travel down the openside, which means a defensive line has a long time to push and catch the man behind the line. Without forwards, the defensive line push isn’t checked and held in anticipation for the run. Which in turn, means it carries on pushing, denying the attack space to work.
In this case, we have to remember the break came from the scrum-half through the line out. As such, forwards were not available out wide as they are in phase play.
Here, we have a break that has been made by Gareth Davies. It is a truly beautiful run, that takes Wales from the halfway line straight into the 22. Owen Williams has been quick to react, they haven’t gone one phase left or trucked it up. They have identified the space, and intend to use it. Owen Williams and a group of forwards with quick thinking, form up a 3 pod as can be seen here.
The only gripe I have about this is the left side carrier within the 3 pod can be a little further out. A Hard pass to him from the centre carrier would take him right to the 5-metre line at a minimum due to the dogleg and could’ve set a try closer to the posts. That is nitpicking though. In 2014 Richie McCaw called the same move against a George Kruis dogleg in the Autumn Internationals.
Jake Ball (yellow/black dot) passes behind to Owen Williams, who fires a pass out to Dan Biggar. The backline here is relatively static, which is why Williams fires his pass so early. The static nature means the backline is not moving up allowing the defence to rush up early. This allows the Ball to get to Biggar before he gets tackled.
The ball gets to Biggar (red), but due to the static nature of the line Kuridrani (black/red dot) is sprinting to try and cut off the outside. There is, however, a gargantuan overlap here. What is an issue though is that there are no hard runners making themselves available. This is shown with the red lines that highlight the running lines of the Welsh backs. They are crabbing across, with no hard running decoy runners. Similarly to England in their switchback pattern example but exacerbated here.
A change in angle as shown by gold is all it takes to stop the drift in its tracks and generate the overlap. Much like the Kiwis do. The problem is, it keeps happening.
Here we can see the result of the pass from Biggar. Jonathan Davies has just received the pass, yet again though, the whole backline does not run straight lines. The players highlighted with yellow lines should be targeting the gap highlighted in yellow. Instead, they are using the lines in red, trying to get around their man. All this actually doing is allowing the drift to go over at a rate of knots, as none of the men are committed.
Jonathan Davies continues with his outside line and makes his pass. Again, he makes it way too deep and needs to commit the defence to increase the chances of his outside men.
We can see the result of the crabbing, the offence are getting closer and closer to the edge of the field. The pass here is made at near the closest time he could make it to commit his defender, but the prior phases haven’t helped the outside men.
Great work from Steff Evans
The ball gets to Steff Evans, who does a very good job to get over the line. But as we can see, he has men on him. With the overlap they started off with this did not have to be the case. The All Blacks are able to make gaps like this of an overlap where their wingers will end up with half the field to 20m of empty space to run into. It isn’t done with offloading and flashy moves, but straight running lines, good alignment, and great catch and pass. Wales have great players. Players I would love to see in the England team. But before Howley starts adding extras, the fundamentals have to be sorted. Otherwise, the chances will more often than not be against you.
The Below pictures show a different angle of the run that makes it clearer.
Think in your own minds, how you think Wales could be aligned? How could their lines be better? How would you orchestrate this attack to maximise space out wide?
Run it through, and feel free to comment on the thread with your own findings. I sound harsh here. And in fairness, there is something to that. But Wales have great players whom at a provincial level, especially with the Scarlets, these problems don’t exist. Basics are the base skills you must have to succeed as a player, and the flashy add-ons do not cover up forgetting the basics.
The greats of the 70s understood this. The All Blacks, Wallabies and to a certain degree England now get it. It’s important for the Welsh going forward to look at this.
Next up in the Wales series, will be their excellent kicking strategy they’ve put in place.
Author: Conor Wilson
Recently retired from the Military, Skydiving and rare Steak Enthusiast and Player of 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 a promotional Rugby day. It was truly beautiful.