Liam Williams put in a man of the match performance during Wales v England as he consistently shut down one of the world’s most dangerous kicking games. England had manipulated Ireland and France into submission with kicks, but the Welsh came into this game determined not to become the third casualty. Here are the ways Liam Williams did what neither Ireland nor France could do, and shut down England’s kicking game.

Wales v England | superior backfield positioning

Here England try to pull their usual tricks. We detailed this in our article on England v France, but to explain it briefly – England try to pull the opposition backfield players out of position with smart kicking. They then regain possession and take advantage of the new space.

England successfully pull Anscombe out of the backfield.

Anscombe comes forward to contest the kick
Anscombe comes forward to contest the kick

This means there should be space in behind the line. England get the ball and kick again to find space, and they do. But Liam Williams is covering.

Williams has it covered
Williams has it covered

France were often caught bringing their backfield up into their line anticipating possession, but Williams is smart enough to cover this area while Anscombe is committed. He takes advantage of a good block from North to make a decent return run.

Williams doesn't get isolated
Williams doesn’t get isolated

Later Williams again shows great instinct for the dangerous kick that Farrell is about to make. He starts moving as soon as Farrell gets to the ruck.

Williams reacts to the situation faster than other fullbacks
Williams reacts to the situation faster than other fullbacks

He can then make a covering run, stopping a try that would have been scored against so many other teams.

Williams saves a try
Williams saves a try

These are only a few of the many moments that Williams showed up in the right place at the right time and brought his team back from the brink.

Much of England’s success rests on their defence re-setting after a kick and trapping the opposition in their own half. However, Wales came up with a smart way for returning kicks that takes advantage of Williams pace and agility.

Wales v England | returning kicks through blocked channels

We already mentioned above how North made a block for Williams above, and here is another great example of Wales blocking off channels for their rampaging full-back.

The Welsh players are purposefully making a nuisance of themselves in the English defensive wall after a clearing kick. Williams spots a channel that Hill is blocking off for him.

Williams spots a gap and swiftly changes direction
Williams spots a gap and swiftly changes direction

Wales are able to prevent the territorial gain England were going for with the original kick. Williams is a master at beating at least the first defender, gifting his team precious time and metres. These blocking runners just add yet more metres.

Williams takes advantage of a block
Williams takes advantage of a block

When a return run wasn’t on, Wales were equally as disciplined. Below Adams looks compromised as the kick from Farrell finds grass. But look who pops up in a great position again to make a clearing kick.

Wales anticipate these kicks, and are positioned for every scenario.
Wales anticipate these kicks, and are positioned for every scenario.

Williams is anticipating this kick and is in support to make the clearance. This kind of deep positioning hadn’t been used against England in the 6 Nations until this game.

Now let’s look at how Wales dealt with one of England’s most dangerous tactics.

Wales v England | shutting down the trap-kick

There is a tactic I like to call the ‘trap kick’ that Farrell and England love to use as a crutch for gaining territory and possession. They used it against the All Blacks and have been deploying it more and more. You can see it in action against the All Blacks in the below article.

How Eddie Jones Almost Won a Hypothetical World Cup Final

The trap kick is a kick that lands on the 5m line and ‘traps’ the receiving player between oncoming defenders and the sideline. When England tried to pull it out against Wales the situation had changed. The Welsh back three were positioned wide in anticipation. Here Adams is perfectly positioned and makes a good catch despite two English defenders looming down on him.

Adams stops a trap kick
Adams stops a trap kick

You may notice Williams is coming across in support in the backfield, just in case Adams doesn’t take it cleanly.

In the below example Williams himself floats across the field to take the catch and stay in the field of play. Wales had their positioning inch-perfect, and that prevented the issues other teams were faced with.

Williams has been phenomenal in this tournament, but where does he place in your current fullbacks rankings? We would love to hear your thoughts below.

7 COMMENTS

  1. We watching the game immediately Thought Wales we’re allowed as long as they wanted to hold onto the ball in the tackle whereas England were immediately penalised by the ref .The ref was only looking to penalising one side and picked on unfairly England destroyed the games flow and , impartiality.We were forced to take off our prop due to Wales complaining about him being too good .I think there was a knock on by Wales ignored before eventually scoring a try .Video replay was not used to ckeck on offsides and only one side were penalised for doing so .When our player was injured the ref should have stoped play and allowed him to be replaced .When our side were wining the ref provided the help required in debatable crucial penalties for Wales .Liam Williams and the team were allowed to cheat to get back into the game and win .

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  3. I am a passionate England fan and I respectfully disagree with the first commenter. I think Wales tactically out-manoeuvred England and won fair and square. There are always referee calls that go both ways and both teams play to that and walk the line. It’s part of rugby. To win you have to win tactically and physically. England did that in the first half but fired very few shots after 50 mins. They weren’t prepared for Wales’ pick and go game, and their discipline and physicality over dozens of phases. And Williams neutralised England’s ability to gain field position, which their attacking game relies upon.
    I wish England had adapted their tactics or that Jones had brought on Ford and Robson. I’m baffled why the tactical alternatives on the bench weren’t used. It’s a game that England could have won but was decided on a series of fine margins.
    Thanks again for a brilliant article 1014!

  4. Thanks for another interesting article. It seems to be a tactical masterclass from Warren Gatland then, backed up by some great Welsh players. (I also think on balance the referee had a good game except for the early Tipuric penalty.)

  5. You’ve got to give to Wales (especially the last 20).

    But, I’d say that the ref was a bit biased.

    Take a look at the forward pass in the video above – caption is “Wales anticipate these kicks, and are positioned for every scenario”. I think Jaco is a great ref. But only human. As was shown with the “neck hold from Sinclair (sliding down in the tackle?). The Millennium stadium is clearly worth its weight in gold.

    Well done Wales. But I’d say the first poster has a bit of a point.

  6. Some of the England fans commenting on here are a bit salty, lol no wonder Aussies call them whinging poms. Wales won because I think Eddie is weak tactically, remember that game against Italy in 2017 when the Italians were all standing off the ruck, the England boys took half the game to respond, they were all looking around bemused. After the game Eddie said “Italy did’nt seem to want to play rugby” all he had to do was tell his players to pick up the ball and run straight ahead. Warren taught him a lesson on tactics, there’s no doubt about that. Hey guys, Do you think Warren will be the next ABS coach?

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