Since the 2012 and 2013 dominance of the Northern Hemisphere by Wales things have gone… well, terribly for the men in red. Today, I try to look at three of the problems at the core of the team which has consistently failed in the Southern Hemisphere and, more recently have faltered against the home nations.
When the current Welsh squad is mentioned certain stalwarts come to mind, Alun-Wyn Jones, Gethin Jenkins, Mike Phillips and Adam Jones to mention a few. Looking at just these four names, Wales must ask themselves whether they all deserve a starting place just on reputation. I agree that it is unfair to argue the quality in players such as Jenkins and AWJ but the persistence to persevere with the slow, lethargic distributor that is Phillips, frustrates me and many a Welsh fan, especially with the nimble, pacey distributor Gareth Davies waiting in the wings.
So, with Gareth Davies given an opportunity, it begs the question whether youngsters such as Samson Lee should be given a chance at tighthead, ( Especially with Adam Jones on a weak run of form ) and, personally, I think the strong scrummager that Lee is, he should be given a chance.
There are also other players in the current team who have been on a run of bad form of late, yet still retain their jersey, including the star man North. I know many will be aghast at the thought of the tank being dropped but, with exciting players like Matthew Morgan and Jordan Williams coming through, does North not need at least a temporary spot on the subs bench with the World Cup looming?
“Warren ball” Yes or no?
I am a strong believer in “Warren ball” – the gameplan where massive backs, such as Roberts or Cuthbert break the gainline off a line out, forwards then truck it up the pitch and create space for backs such as Davies, Halfpenny or North to take advantage of. This game plan has worked against the six nations teams consistently but has capitulated against the big three.
This begs the question, Why does it fail against the SH nations? In my opinion its down to the size that the Welsh pack does not possess. A bigger pack needed? Yes, but Wales’ lack of depth prevents this. It seems that change in the gameplan is required but – As I write this after the painful 2nd test against South Africa – “Warren Ball” just needs to be adapted slightly. Keep the ball in hand for longer, use more first phase runners, not just Roberts, and have Faletau meandering in the outside channels, like we see the unplayable Kieran Read do for New Zealand. For me, this evolution of “Warren ball” would be a perfect recipe for success against the big three and at home.
Players leaving Wales
With North, Roberts, Phillips, Lydiate, Hibbard, Halfpenny and Davies all to be playing for clubs outside Wales next year, there is an undeniable problem in Welsh rugby. Having players based inside your country just works. The national rugby union has control over when players are released, the clubs are better and this means more kids want to play rugby, making more national players.
How do Wales keep players in Wales? Ill take a line from ABBA here:money,money,money. The regions need to be run mainly independently by men who know how to make a successful club/franchise. What does a successful club/franchise make? The answer lies again with ABBA.
Please tell us below what you think the reasons are for Welsh teams hardships in the comments below