Both Warren Gatland and Joe Schmidt have been hailed as the saviours of Welsh and Irish rugby respectively, but that is looking increasingly unlikely.
For all the immediate success their tenures have brought, it appears both Wales and Ireland are heading in the wrong direction right now and at an increasingly rapid pace. The similarities are clear for all to see, although the current drop off from Ireland has come around much more quickly than with Warren Gatland’s Wales side.
Both coaches enjoyed successful starts to their respective international careers after club success. They built their teams on very specific styles that whilst conservative in nature, yielded results to begin with. The problem however is that both coaches seem content to enjoy relative success each year in the Six Nations rather than to kick on and attempt to challenge the powers of world rugby.
England’s demolition job of Wales over the weekend was the perfect demonstration of how the differing approaches of coaches in the ever changing international game have yielded entirely different results. Whilst Eddie Jones has been happy to expand England’s game plan and trust in young talents to get the job done, Gatland has maintained the Warrenball approach that saw his side systematically dismantled at Twickenham.
Whilst England’s young guns flourished despite missing a number of key players, Wales’ established stars failed to ignite and ended up scoring just one try to England’s five. The scary thing is that the eventual scoreline flattered Warren Gatland’s men given George Ford’s profligacy from the tee.
It seems both Schmidt and Gatland have a firmly established group of ‘favourites’ who have become somewhat undroppable. Whilst most of them undoubtedly have a place in their respective squads, they are often selected in favour of promising young talents. In contrast, England have recently thrown the likes of Jack Clifford, Paul Hill and Teimana Harrison in at the deep end and all have flourished.
You just have to look at Schmidt’s willingness to overlook the stars of Connacht’s recent Pro12 winning side to see how rigid the selection process has become. How can it be the likes of Matt Healy continue to be overlooked (at least initially) in favour of players who are either out of form, or not capable of reaching the same heights.
The same is true for Wales where despite their obvious talents, players like Jamie Roberts are continually selected come what may when it is clear there needs to be a shake up in the back line. If there is one thing that both coaches can learn from the recent success of Eddie Jones’ England side, it is that giving younger players a shot can often pay off big time.