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.
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.
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.
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.
He can then make a covering run, stopping a try that would have been scored against so many other teams.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Author: The 1014 Rugby and Henry Stokes