With a chance of a Grand Slam on the horizon, Warren Gatland has shown his hand on both attack and defence during Scotland v Wales at Murrayfield. In both areas, Wales flow seamlessly between two separate structures. This paved the way for their recent win over Scotland and could prove pivotal in the final round.
In this article we will explain their two attacking structures, and why they are built to work in different situations. This will go hand in hand with the defence structures article, which you can read by clicking the link below.
The Gatland Standard 1-3-3-1 Approach | Scotland v Wales
Warren Gatland has long been using a 1-3-3-1 forward formation, and we get to see it in action in the below clip. We can clearly see the 3 forwards ready to take the carry (yellow circles).
By the time we get to the next pod of 3, the Scottish defence is beginning to compress. When done correctly this is what a good 1-3-3-1 should achieve. You want to draw players in to defend the pods, and force them to fold around the ruck.
Anscombe delivers to the second pod.
Now the Scottish defence has been thinned out on the far side, Wales finally move into the 15m channel by the touchline. In the clip below, you may notice their no.8 Moriarty is out here running a dummy line. He is the last ‘1’ of the 1-3-3-1, and serves his purpose well.
Thanks to a sidestep of dreams from Adams, Wales profit off the 1-3-3-1 to score from 40m out. In this particular case it took just 3 phases, but it’s important to note the 1-3-3-1 is not always this immediately effective.
Wales like to use this to win halfway, a concept Gatland uses to keep his side on top of every opponent. The article on that tactic is below.
But what about when Wales have successfully won halfway, and enter their opponents red-zone? It’s time to inspect tactic number two.
The Pillar Attack Approach | Scotland v Wales
Now Wales are in better field position, they enter their second style attack. Gone is the relentless structure of the 1-3-3-1. It’s all about patience and brute force now.
It all starts with an attacking line-out. Owens throws to winger George North at the front, an innovative piece of play.
This now sets up a barrage of 1-out runners and pick & go’s. They start by using pods of two forwards, similar to England’s approach.
However, this quickly dissolves into making metres around the ruck by any means necessary. It may be boring, but this is as effective as it gets against modern rush defences.
Here we are now 20 phases in, and Parkes takes a good line to finally get some front-foot ball for Wales.
This small break is what Wales have been working towards all this time. We have finally reached the moment where all of this pays off.
The Patience Game Pay-Off | Scotland v Wales
With momentum on their side, Wales play it safe by using one more phase to compress the Scottish defence. The players sense it’s time to break out of the pillar attacking gameplan. North pulls in two defenders, and the trap is set.
Wales have now removed all possible doubt about going wide and can use the truly world-class Jonathan Davies to score. Notice how he doesn’t face much opposition while scoring. This was engineered by the 22 phases of grit.
This system took 22 phases to deliver compared to the 3 phases used by the 1-3-3-1 above. Yet it worked against England, and it worked here. In a tournament containing incredible rush defences and genius set pieces, it would be ironic if 20+ phases of pure patience is the tactic that wins a Grand Slam.
Does the end justify the means when it comes to gritty tactics like this? Can Wales play like this against Ireland to seal up a Grand Slam? Let us know down below.
Author: The 1014 Rugby and Henry Stokes