As we built up to the first Wales v England 2019 fixture, it was difficult to see any chink in England’s defensive armour. The fearsome white defensive wall were fast, armed with chop-tackles, and fought for every millimetre of turf. Fortunately for Wales, Warren Gatland and his players had plenty of time to consider every aspect of this game. He came up with some ways to kill the England kicking game, which we have already discussed. But if he couldn’t make metres against the white wall it would all be for nothing.
Here are Warren Gatland’s solutions for Wales’ attack against England.
Attacking the pillars | Wales v England 2019
Wales realised the two pillar defenders (red circles below) set the pace of the defensive line. If they can knock them off their game, they can limit the effectiveness of the English rush defence.
Davies puts the pillars to the test immediately below. England were not expecting this, and he gains a few metres.
Later, Wales have an attacking line-out in England’s 22. They go straight back into attacking the pillars. Eventually, England are short on the far side and Sinkler has to get around there ASAP.
He is off balance and attempts a chop-tackle with no arms. Wales win 3 points.
This manipulation was brought on by the simple pillar attack Wales used. By asking the English forwards to make these defensive decisions, the could chip away until 3 points was assured. It’s certainly a world away from the glitzy set pieces we have seen in the 6 Nations so far. But with the English defence beating all comers this year, an expansive game wasn’t going to work.
The next aspect of Gatland’s attack explains why they made certain decisions with possession.
The importance of controlling half-way | Wales v England 2019
Wales place huge importance on controlling half-way, with the belief that whoever controls half-way controls the game. The passage of play below lays out what that means.
Wales are attacking on half-way and England are defending very well. They try a few different methods of attack, but ultimately England are winning the battle for half-way.
Wales even bring in Liam Wiliams, but they aren’t crossing the advantage line.
After trying these different methods over several phases, Wales concede that England are winning half-way. They won’t hang around here any longer, risking a turnover or a penalty. It’s time to kick.
Wales are betting on England kicking the back to them from this position (a safe bet). England do kick it back, and Wales spread the ball wide in the clip below. Wales are now winning halfway, and break away past England’s 10m line.
This tactic is a bit of chess from Gatland that aims to keep Wales in the driver’s seat. If they can’t make metres near halfway they will kick, and try again when the opposition kick it back. Gatland backs the talent of players like Williams and North to advance their position. If you would like to know how Williams specifically positioned himself to shut down England’s kicking game, check out the below article.
The last tactic we will discuss comes in the form of a question asked to referees the world over.
When is the ball out of a ruck? | Wales v England 2019
Wales shuffled the ball across the ground in their attacking rucks, in theory giving Davies plenty of time to make box kicks. Watch below as he dribbles the ball to the last man’s feet.
It’s likely Wales spoke to the referee prior to the game and made sure they could play to this interpretation of the laws. In this game as long as the ball doesn’t leave the ruck or the ground, Wales can keep doing this.
Below Davies goes so far as to slide the ball across the ground on its end. We are interested to hear all of your thoughts on this tactic.
The 1014 were honoured to have a wide-ranging interview with Warren Gatland, where many of his tactics were discussed. You can check it out below.
Author: The 1014 Rugby and Henry Stokes