Five reason Wales will win the Grand Slam (and five why they won’t)

The professionals might be hitting us with clichés to try keep talk of a Grand Slam down. Phrases such as “Take one game at a time” and “Every team is dangerous so we can’t get ahead of ourselves” are rolled out to try play down expectation. But it’s not working amongst Welsh fans.

Go into any pub in Wales and you will find people desperate to give their views on this 6 Nations. That might not be unusual, but rather than following the party line of not looking ahead, talk of the Grand Slam being a possibility is never far from their lips. Or mine. After decades of waiting for one, we have had two in recent times – 2005 and 2008. On both occasions Wales showed why Rugby is still the National sport, with half the country out on the streets celebrating, and we’re desperate to do it again.

But just how seriously should we be taking ourselves? After all we may have two victories in the bag, an important point in any Grand Slam effort, but the win vs Ireland was not exactly convincing, in fact others may well call it lucky (I don’t). And whilst the Scotland game was more comfortable, many still point to the yellow cards being a vital aspect of the win. With England up next, who are also two from two on their travels to Italy and Scotland, can we really bag a third Grand Slam in under 10 years?

Five Reasons Wales Will Win the Grand Slam

1. The Size of our Backs: Predictable, yes. But research has actually shown that it could well be a factor. A French study of the World Cups between 1981 and 2007 showed that the winners of the cup had bigger backs (and heavier forwards) and the others.

With Halfpenny the only player under 6ft in the backline, and man mountains such as the youngsters George North and Alex Cuthbert one the wings (both born in England, so very glad we grabbed them), and Jamie Roberts in the centre, we don’t lack for size or power. But they have pace and skills too, look at North’s lovely behind the back off load vs Ireland for example.

2. Priestland: Not many saw him as the piece of the jigsaw we needed before the World Cup, but he is now vital to the cause. As a flat lying 10 he is the perfect fit for us, and brings our big strike runners into play. A clever kicking game, good distribution and the ability to find space for others means he is taking us to new heights.

3. The Back Row: The breakdown is all important these days, and so often it is the backrow that defines it. In Warburton we have a 7 that is arguable as good as any in the World. He spoils and steals with the best of them. But it is the balance that is key.

Lydiate is a tackle machine, taking down anyone who comes near him, and getting through a lot of the ‘unseen’ work a 6 needs, freeing Warburton for other duties. Faletau, at only 21, is a huge ball carrier, with pace and power to match anyone. The three of them together give a balance Wales have lacked for years, and will only get better and better.

4. Momentum: Wales may have lost to Australia twice, in the World Cup and just afterwards, but the momentum from the World Cup is still with us. Just missing out to South Africa and France hurt our pride, and you can see these players gaining confidence from making a World Cup semi. With 2 wins confidence and momentum is building.

5. Defence: We may be the team that finally let Scotland score, but our defence has been a real factor in the last year or two, just like in 2008. The blitz is strong, the line speed impressive. We may be capable of scoring tries, but the systems suggest we can stop them too. Edwards has written on how we don’t need the ball for long periods, how 40% possession can be an advantage to a team with a good defence, and that could well be telling for us.

Five Reasons We Won’t Win the Grand Slam

I never like to dwell on the negatives too long – it makes my prematch nerves too much to handle (funny how fans can get them so much). So I’ll make this brief.

1. Lineout: Gatland can point to the stats as much as he likes, the fact is that our lineout is poor – and often turned over at vital moments, especially in attacking situations.

2. The Opposition: A lot of people are writing off this England side too quickly. There is some impressive youth coming through. Tuilagi especially can be a dangerous weapon. And we haven’t seen much of France yet, hard to gauge them based on a game vs Italy. Both teams could well beat us.

3. Over Confidence: Not seen too much from this team so far, but every time Wales start looking like a good team is developing the player seem to buy into their own hype and go off the boil. This team will need to keep itself grounded better than those before them.

4. Still Young: This team is full of youngsters. There may be a few old heads, but the average age is, if I recall correctly, below 25 – making it even younger than the ‘developing’ England team of the last few weeks. Can the youngsters withstand the pressure? We didn’t vs France in the RWC, can we now?

5. Depth: We’ve developed some impressive strength in depth in recent years, Tipuric covering Warburton for example. But there are still some positions we would be lost if our front line players were injured. The cover for Adam Jones is nowhere to be seen, Jamie Roberts has no one else like him in Wales (and please, let’s not make this about Henson), and Priestland is the only real flat lying 10 with his skill set we have – Nicky Robinson being ignored aside. Add in Mike Phillips’ strength having no real equal and we have a few key positions we simply can’t replace.

My belief? A lot depends on France who we haven’t seen enough of. But I believe in this young Welsh side, and think they can go on to do great things. I worry this is a step beyond them, but deep in my heart I feel that it’s there for the taking, and that we’ll do it! What do you think?

by Rugby Nick

Rugby Nick is a massive Welsh rugby fan and runs the Welsh Rugby Blog website, which you can find here.

90 thoughts on “Five reason Wales will win the Grand Slam (and five why they won’t)

    1. You were much better than France as well, so of course you won that game ….. oh look no you didn’t!

      I think you are favourites, but if the game was played 10 times I don’t think it would be Wales 10 wins England 0, maybe 7, 3.

      Having said that if it really clicks I think there is a chance of a Welsh landslide, in which case I expect some major stick from my Brother-in-law whom I bought a Fiji Rugby shirt to commemorate older Welsh performances.

        1. My recollection is that France didn’t do anything really to win the semi final. Even with SLam Warbuton off I thought Wales were still the better team and had more opportunities to win. The Adam Jones injury in that game was also crucial, so totally agree with you point on the depth in some key positions.

          If you think France were the better team and deserved to win on the day I won’t argue though.

          1. I thought we were better, but not much in it. Given the 14 man issue that is understandable if disappointing. If we had 15 on the pitch? Not sure, French performance could easily be as different as ours would have been

            And as you say, there was that important injury too

          2. Who won?In the final the better team lost, the best team won the will win the 6N, but not the GS.

    2. Reasons why you may not!

      2010 England 30 Wales 17
      2008 England 19 Wales 26
      2006 England 47 Wales 13
      2004 England 31 Wales 21

      In your last four Six Nations matches at Twickenham, you’ve only managed one win. And in the three you’v lost, you’ve given away at least 30 points.
      On form or not the odds are stacked up, and not really in your favour. I wouldn’t get too cocky, because if you lose, even by a point, you will look silly after your statement.

      1. Depends. do you count previous losses as useful? Why? 7 of Englands starting XV have 3 caps or less. Of the last 6 Nations game at Twickenham in 2010, only 3 of the Welsh starting line up remain (AWJ, Roberts, Adam Jones) and only one of Englands (Hartley)

        Got to say, I’m not reading much into previous Twickenham encounters

        1. You’re right Nick. There are a lot of if’s and but’s, and at the end of the day we can only guess the outcome. But England’s first game of this Six Nations at Twickenham, after their first two away wins, it’s a massive banana skin for this excellent Welsh team.

          There’s also the fact that so far Wales have let in 34 points to England’s 21. And England’s two games were away.

      2. What stupid stats, they mean nothing, the past is dead and gone what happens Saturday is what counts. If history counted then what would be the point of Wales turning up. If England win then it will be the shock of the tournament, not saying it may not happen but i for one would be suprised, can’t see where England are going to compete apart from the line outs and to be farEngland have been poor there also. Wales to win by 10 points

      1. Not missing the point, he is saying Wales are going to lose on previous stats not on the two teams taking the field, England have not showed anything in their previous two games to suggest a possibilty of a English victory

      1. With good reason. I’ve been reading comments in newspapers saying things like “this is the most important 80 minutes of Wales under Gatland”. The fact is that whilst this is a big game I consider the Semi more important (and the quarter before it), the game against Ireland more important, and the game coming up against France.

        Even if we lose I would still consider this to be the 3rd most important game of the 6 Nations, beating Ireland was completely vital to us, and the game against the French still could be the Championship decider, eve if we lose this one.

        1. Disagree with you Rugby Nick. If Wales loose this then the France game becomes a must win or it would be very conceivable that they end up 4th overall!

          1. agree, it could end up like that. But let’s assume that this young English team lose to Ireland or France and so also put them on 3 or 4 wins. That still makes the French game a potential title decider (tries scored notwithstanding, far too early to tell).

            Which still puts the French game as more important. As the Ireland game was vital not only as a very losable game (I rate Ireland above England at the moment), but also because momentum was needed, that still rates this game 3rd.

          2. The reason I’m stressing the importance is purely that on the face of it this is a much easier win than Ire or Fra for Wales so to loose it is a bigger deal than loosing to the others.

        2. The next game is always billed as the most important at that time. Of course the World Cup semi was more important. Because they lost the 6 Nations takes on greater importance to them.

  1. I still like this underdog thing – lose and it won’t really matter as we are developing a team. Win and England look great and Wales look like chokers. No wonder you Celts hung onto this tag for so long! No wonder the Irish supporters are always up for a Craic, as you can party harder and with more enjoyment when you don’t have any expectation of a win. You never know we might even have smiling at Twickenham!

  2. Let’s be fair, it’s Wales’ game to lose. Wales have a far superior team and experience. All England have is hope, based on no evidence whatsoever.

    What Wales need to take away from the last year is that they haven’t won the close games that they could’ve / should’ve done: SA, France, Aus x 2… These games were all winnable. The last-minute penalty vs Ireland was fortunate, not to say that it wasn’t deserved or Wales wouldn’t have got a drop-goal anyway, but if Ireland had won, that’d be another game for the taking that wasn’t converted, and we’d be talking about a problem with the team closing out the tight matches.

    Twickenham will be a good test of how the team’s progressing. Once they start winning the tight games, we can start talking about the next level for the team where they start being serious challengers to the southern hemisphere big guns.

  3. Guys

    The French are still the standout favourites for the Grandslam, although I don’t think anyone will take the slam this year, Ireland and England have an upset in them somewhere.

    The French have more talent and much more strength in depth, where their head is nobody knows.

    This Welsh team has huge potential but abit of patients is required, for whatever reasons, this welsh team hasn’t exactly being destroying the top teams in the world, SA game was unlucky and they were great against Ireland but they lost to Aus and France, then to Aus again. If they win at Twickers they will show real strength and class, and I fancy them to do it as well.

    But they have a long way to go.

    1. “The French have more talent and much more strength in depth, where their head is nobody knows.”

      Completely agree, as I tried to say in the article, one French game against Italy is not enough to judge where there head is at. Always agree about depth. Wales are developing it, but as I said, there are a number of key positions we lack depth.

      If we can keep our key players, and French rugby is at where I think it is, I would say we would just pip them as we’re at home (would have us down to lose by more than a score away). But just like our game in Ireland, it’s too close to call…and that’s just based on what I think the French side will do, we need to see more of them yet to have any real prediction.

      I admit I may be letting my heart slightly rule my head in all this!

  4. I actually think this article is spot on.

    Wales are favourites. Bar them throwing it away, or England ‘clicking’ and releasing the backs, Wales should win this game.

    However i dreamt England won by 2pts so put your money there!!

  5. The more posts I read the more I realise how big a game this is for Wales! Ever since the RWC QF all the talk has been about this Welsh side.

    If this Welsh team that has so much hype but little delivery (yet) slips up against a very inexperienced and experimental Eng side then it will be huge.

    This will either be the game of the tournament with Wales playing their natural game and us throwing caution to the wind or if the Welsh try to grind out a win it could be dull as dishwater.

    Either way can’t wait

    1. “If this Welsh team that has so much hype but little delivery (yet) slips up against a very inexperienced and experimental Eng side then it will be huge.”

      I disagree. It is big, and an important test. But then so was going to Ireland, arguably a far bigger test (find the idea that going to Twickenham as being more important than going to Ireland rather odd tbh).

      People forget that this a relatively inexperienced Welsh side. More experienced than England? Yes. But as I said in other comments the players remaining from the last time this was a fixture only have 3 welsh players remaining the starting line up.

      Losing wouldn’t be the end of the World – they could very conceivably go on to still win the Championship, as England would still have Ireland and France to face, whilst we would still have a potential show down with France at Cardiff.

      It would suggest the team haven’t come as far as many think they have, but they can’t be blamed for the inevitable hype.

      It’s a young Welsh team, that is coming together nicely. It could be that it’s a year or two away from where many think they are, and there’s no real problem with that.

      1. Rugby Nick – Wales have won twice in Twickenham in the last 25 years haven’t they? With only one win in the last 24 or something

        How many times in the same period have they beaten the Irish in Ireland? 10, 11?

        The relative paucity of wins at Twickenham may well explain the perceived importance of winning here – whether or not it is the most important game in the championship for you

        1. it’s a useless stat though, I covered it in the comments above but to summarise…

          Last 6N of England vs Wales has 4 players left over, AWJ, Adam, Roberts for Wales (Adam and AWJ having won in 08), Hartley for England. 7 English players have under 3 caps, the same amount haven’t even played for England at Twickenham before

          Journos may like it to be a stat they can use to build hype and atmosphere, but in relation to the game it is all but meaningless

          1. Interesting that the Wales wins at Twickenham stats are, in your words useless, but then start quoting stats about how many players are left from previous 6N’s. But if you think about it, that would have been the same for some of the other years Wales have lost at Twickenham, so that would also make those stats quite useless.

          2. Actually Dazza, I was quoting stats that prove that the stats of previous games, given in isolation, are useless. I am not saying stats are useless.

            Previously English teams had a long run of stability, and so could rely on the fact their experience of grinding out wins, especially at home, would help them through. This mattered for Twickenham games

            Now they don’t have that, with nearly half that team not even having played at Twickenham for England. And only 1 having faced Wales there in the corresponding 6 Nations fixture. So having looked at these stats, the isolation of games long past, from teams nothing like the ones taking the field, leads me to discard it as being useful

            no other game England have played would have discarded their history at twickenham as much as this inexperienced side, and not often a welsh team will come back two years later with only 3 remaining starters. There is big changes happening in both sides, hence my discarding of previous.

            When looked at in the last two fixtures in the 6N at twckenham, its one game all. Whilst still useless imo, it is more useful than a stat gained over 25 years (iirc the game 4 years ago has also 3 welsh players having survived – AJ, AWJ and Phillips)

        2. Every game is important, or at least i would hope so, and a loss on Saturday would be a set back and a shock to Wales but history means nothing to Wales come 4 on Saturday and i really believe that Twickenham to this Welsh Team is meaningless and a irrelevance.

  6. Have Wales really showed that much. Played 2 won 2 yes. Last gasp against Ireland and with players off the pitch for Scotland. Im not at all saying this Welsh side is bad just think that people need to think more and not write England off. Personally i am looking forward to a very good test match

    1. I agree, Wales are a good team but far from being a great Team and yet to prove their apparent pedestal, but i just don’t think England at present have gelled or have the ability at this stage to win. This Welsh team also is younger then the English Team and still have alot to learn. I have seen nothing as yet in the 6 nations which i am impressed with, there have been moments but not a complete performance.

      1. Actually someone did the maths for me, and whilst until now Wales have been younger, this game they are older. Not sure how true this is (havent checked) but I am told

        Wales average age: 25.4
        England average age: 24.8

        So much of a muchness really

        1. Yeh, i did not check, i was told including the bench Wales were just under 25yrs, bored about the arrogance rubbish, like i said before when Wales turn around and want to play southern hemisphere Teams along with France then please call us arrogant – how the mighty have fallen

          1. Don’t think people are calling “the Welsh” arrogant but there are a few probably intential remarks on here about how great the Welsh are and how much they are going to win by. Shouldn’t rise to it but difficult not to

        2. Ages aside it’s really about caps, because that denotes experience in the team. I would suspect that the Welsh team would have more caps, but I don’t know for sure.

          1. A lot more. Cant remember the stats but this is the least capped England team since 1989. Under 200 total caps (180 something I think). IIRC Wales have more than that in the tight 5

  7. Just optimism i think Ben – i certainly do not think Wales are a great team, far from it. I am not convinced by the Welsh performances but the two games i have seen of England they have been very poor and can’t see how England can win – if England cannot step up by 30% then i can see Wales winning by 10 – 14 points. At the end of the day it’s 80 minutes of rugby, a few slips, run of the green and it’s anyones. I for one would be suprised if Wales lose. England have struggled to score tries and if your new centre partnership keep our centres quiet and England compete at the breakdown and show some flair then they can win obviously – but it’s a big ask for a developmental team. Not being arrogant honestly – just my view

  8. If Lancaster had played the same team he used against Scotland and Italy I don’t think England would have been competetive at any significant level. But with Morgan starting our backrow looks to be stronger and will hopefully contend with Wales’ back-row (which is very strong but faletau is slightly overrated). Also Dickson should provide cleaner ball as he demonstrated against Italy where I thought he was very impressive. Farrel will churn out points all match long if Wales concede inside 40m of their posts. And the centre battle is going to be epic – a true clash of the titans. The only place I’d say Wales have a huge advantage is the size and ability of their wings. I reckon Wales should win but don’t have to stretch the imagination much to see England snatching it.

    1. Have to say that I tend to agree about Faletau – he’s decent but not yet world class which most people seem to say he is, however I think the breakdown will be key and I can’t see England competing enough to win. However I am prepared to be surprised. There are two teams in it and who saw Italy upsetting France last year! I think the back three are more even than many think as well. It’s just that the English back three haven’t had a decent ball in two matches!

    2. Farrel in my opinion is usual in attack and at best a average No 10, don’t think he has the ability to get your three quarters going unless it’s backwards, the Welsh centres will show their class and make ground to unleash our wingers. I can see england scoring penalties, at least 3 and think England will snatch a try ( can’t see where from thou is the problem ), probably another charge down or interception, so 19 points to England. Wales i can see going over at least 3 times, not sure about the penalty count thou, so may be close if England keep their dicipline. 19 – 30 is my prediction

  9. To Ben H, Quote… ‘if the Welsh try to grind out a win it could be dull as dishwater.’ Err highly unlikely Ben, I think it will be the English trying to grind out the win, the inclusion of Farrell who is a great kicker but has fek all else going for him indicates the English tactics will be to try & frustrate the Welsh & draw penalties. Don’t think there will be much in it but I can’t see Wales losing, Manu & Barritt will make it more competitive but your backs are gonna get run over imho.

  10. I agree on Faletau, he is still a work in progress, that doesn’t mean he isn’t a good player, but his flankers are a class above. The one thing I will give him is he is very fit and seems to have strong second half performances.

    This is one of Wales biggest assets, they believe in their fitness and therefore never panic when the going is hard.

    Agree on Farell as well, I’m not all that impressed with him, he is good in defence, great kicker, but Sarries play a very rigid game which he executes well but can he lead, I doubt it. I would have prefered hodgson, he is a natural distributer and not a bad kicker. If he was playign with Barrit and Manu outside him things would be interesting.

    I agree that the game, lick so many will be won and lost at the breakdown, here Wales hava huge advantage. England haven’t been good in that area since BAck gave up the game. I reckon Dickens will be a big help though, he is a very hyper scrum half, and a fighter

  11. To Stesco, none of your backline is going to run through are midfield, brad and manu will do very well at slowing up play too so your big wings may not get clean ball. I can see Wales winning but not running away with it. I can see Strettle being dominated but none of the other England backs.

    1. I’ve always reckoned Strettle was pretty good in the tackle, even if not overly big. Not quite sure what size Ashton is but he looks big enough and I therefore can’t see the England backs being run over, but I can see Wales going past them (or indeed any forwards who end up wide in the defensive line!)

  12. really good article !
    The one player that gets a bit overlooked and actually makes the backs tick is jonathan Davies strong fast and great skills ,his defence is awesome ! should be interesting him and roberts against barritt and tanu .
    i think ryan jones has been unlucky not to be selected but the right call ,maybe alun wyn can prop up our lineout and this is one area i am concerned about !
    This team reminds me of the welsh team of the 70,s when even if they were losing at half time they never panicked and always believed that they could come back and win ,these youngsters seem to have the same belief which is the big difference to welsh teams of late who seemed to lack that self confidence .
    It is going to be an epic battle ,not forgetting our record at twickenham…awful … i believe we will just win it ! i believe !
    GLAD that england have picked Farrel as although he is the future if he can kick on and develop his attacking game, he is limited … Toby Flood would have been my choice as he always seems to play well against wales and has a more rounded game ! Billy Twelvetrees should be up there as well !
    Fair play to the england coach (whats his name ..) for sticking to his guns and introducing continuity with the squad ……
    The back row battle will decide it and i think wales will edge this …… BRING IT ON !

    1. JD2 worries me. He has a lot of talent, and even more potential. But again and again he favours the show and go, cutting inside himself, rather than drawing and giving to release the flier on the outside. Sometimes this can work (his try vs Ireland), but a lot of the times it can be costly (vs Scotland)

      More, I don’t understand it. Using the man with the true gas (fast as JD2 is) should be obvious – and one of JD2s real strengths is that he is superb at rucking, he should be looking to give to the winger then support the break, either offering an inside ball option, or giving support if he is caught, as he has the ability to secure that quick ball following a break, giving us a platform to launch against broken and split defences.

  13. Here is an interesting thought …. i think that DANNY CIPRIATI will be ENGLANDS NO10 for the next world cup … debate !

    1. Interesting thought, but I don’t think Cipriani will get anywhere near this England team now. I know he’s still young, but with guys like Farrell, Burns, Ford, Clegg (the list goes on), I think he’s missed his chance.

      1. If Cips comes back and plays well he will be ahead of all those names except farrell, as he has test match experience. Pre injury he had the lot, passing, line breaks, vision and a great boot. I hope he has a good second season in melbourne and finds a club who can help him get back on the straight and narrow. Diamond seems to be a no nonense type of bloke, so if the Sale rumours are true that might be a good thing.

    2. John, I think that you are right! He is a solid kicker and offers so much more in attack than Farrell. His achilles heels are his defence & attitude but it looks like he’s sorted out the later and is working hard on the former. There are bright times ahead for Eng I think.

      Back to this weekend though, I really hope the teams play the game we are all hoping for because it could be a classic. Wales def favourites but think as both these teams develop over the next few year this could become the fixture of the tournament!

        1. Current thinking is Cips at 10 with O’Connor 12. Rebels backs have played very well in pre-season and although Cipriani still isn’t tackling properly, he seems to be at least scragging people rather than running away.

          Doubt he’ll get near England again but he could forge a decent career as a journeyman flair drawcard.

  14. Its funny how the Welsh on a 2 match “winning streak” (by 2 points against a poor Ireland and a brave Scotland) are as equally cocky and obnoxious to listen too as a winning England or New Zealand Team!

    1. You’re right Gareth, and the same brave Scotland side who managed to score a try past there defence. Struggled to score a try past so many other weaker teams, but Wales, no problem at all.

      1. Scotland are looking more dangerous. It was only composure that stopped them scoring a couple vs England (and again against Wales. The one not awarded may have been a try, but there was no reason for them to make it so hard on themselves, but a lack of composure)

        Wales are getting over hyped, a few of our younger fans seem to be wanting to lash out against those they saw as putting them down previously. Whilst understandable (to a small degree), it shouldn’t be the case

        We’re favourites for a reason, but it is likely to be close. And a couple of mistakes, or England putting together something quality, could see the game go the other way.

        That said, we are favourites for a reason. We were comfortable against Scotland when we upped the pace, and that’s part of the game plan. We defend consistently until we see a chance, and attack relentlessly at that point. It’s all part of Edwards’ defensive plan (look at his article this week).

        Against Ireland it was a lot closer, and we could have lost. But I felt we were the better side, and as such deserved the win. An away game vs a settled and strong Ireland side is always going to be a tough game, any win taken from there should be applauded (something a lot of English fans on comments are forums seem to be forgetting).

        TBH both sets of fans are over hyping things. It’s a sign of a changed set of favourites, which many people seem to be struggling to get their heads and emotions around

    2. Whatever – when could you ever mention England in the same sentence as the all Blacks – that is being obnoxious and arrogant

  15. Another Reason against the GS…Mike Phillips. When he has a great game he looks unstoppable, but when things go against him he can fall to pieces, knocking on or throwing wild passes. England must look to spoil first and disrupt the welsh game and get under phillip’s skin.

    1. Absolutely right. Get to phillips and he will get frustrated. And he will give away sill penalties. If Farrell is on his game, and the weather is good, he will have a go from anywhere inside the Wales half.

    2. But arguably he is a reason for winning it – he makes it possible to under commit to rucks as his strength allows him to rip free of grabbing hands. It slows ball down, but that under commitment also gives us more numbers and width.

      Mike is far from perfect (though I doubt he would admit that), but he is central to Wales’ play. even when he is having a bad game his positives are still enough for me (imo of course)

  16. Cipp will always have the talent but I don’t know if he will get there, he needs to find a really good coach that believes in him.

    I like Burns for the future, he is a good kicker and can play a lot flatter than Farrell, he offloads well. He could be a fantastic fly-half for England, I’m going with Burns for the next world cup.

  17. Has anyone really seen Farrell play at fly half? Normally he plays at centre for Sarries with hodgson at fly half

    I have never seen him play there and to be honest, haven’t a clue what to expect.

    1. Played there most of last season, including the AP final (where he had a stormer). Might be his more natural position, but he has a lack of international experience, hasn’t really started there this season, and is young to the position.

      He’s a kicking 10 more than anything else, so expect to see a fair bit of that (especially with Wales’ weakness at lineout).

      anyone know if Barritt is any good at kicking?

      1. Couldn’t kick the skin off a custard. You guys can really target Farrell as he is the only kicking option.

        Have seen no evidence that Farrell can fire a backline becasue that is not how Sarries play. I’d like to see him given the chance to become our long-term 12 but would be delighted if he proves me wrong tomorrow.

        1. Fair enough, my knowledge of him is based on seeing 3 or 4 games of him at 10. That is too small a number for confidence, so I will happily bow to anyone with greater experience of him as a 10

        2. Jamie Roberts isn’t exactly known for his kicking abilities either, doesn’t seem to worry Wales

          Of everything to look forward to tomorrow, the bit that really excites me will be Barritt and Tuilagi vs Davies and Roberts. There are going to be some massive collisions

          I just hope Davies and Roberts can be shut down before the ball gets to North and Cuthbert. I fear for David Strettle if it does

  18. Great article and kicked off a really good debate.

    For me the most interesting fact is the ages. England are making all sorts of excuses about rebuilding and the age of the team. The likes of Priestland, Faletau, North, Davies and supporting players like Scott and Lloyd Williams went to the World Cup with only a small handful of caps and excelled themselves. It is very possible for players to come into test rugby and grab it by the balls as long as they are empowered to do so and it makes a mockery of a lot of England’s rhetoric. It goes to show how important the environment is and Gatland and his team can’t be praised enough. Also interesting how much more rounded, mature and intelligent many of the Welsh players. Not sure what that says but it seems to translate into intelligent decision-making on the field.

    Having said that, Wales actually only won 4 from 7 and didn’t beat a higher ranked team at the World Cup. In fact, World Cup warm ups aside they haven’t beaten a higher ranked team than them for well over a year. I have really enjoyed watching them over the past 6 months but for that reason I believe the jury remains out on just how good they are and quite how much they believe in themselves when it really comes down to it.

    They should win on Saturday but heart has ruled over head and I’ve gone for an England win on Sportguru.

    1. The difference is, I think, that Gatland has been gradually introducing players. There’s not many Welsh players under 15 caps, and only Cuthbert under 10 (I think). they’ve come in bit by bit, either when others are injured and then performed, or as gatland thought it suitable.

      Its a big difference to mass changes, which make it harder on the youngsters to perform as they won’t have a settled team around them. there is some real quality being introduced by England (Morgan and Tuilagi for example), but it’s tough for youngsters to take games by the scruff of the neck when they are with others just as inexperienced.

      That said, if they gel right, there is a basis of a very good team in that England set up (a fair few journeymen too imo, which need to be weeded out)

  19. Very true. I wrote an article on here a year ago about how more England debutants seemed to be making a greater impact and attributed it to just that – having experience around them and the squad environment. Quite what happened between March and October is anybody’s guess but the fact is you should never really find yourself in a position of having 7 players with 3 caps or fewer. It suggests that somewhere down that some pretty average decisions have been made.

    On another note Nick, do you think Wales might actually benefit from Shane Williams’ retirement as a team? Obviously he was fantastic but when they were up against it there was a bit of a ‘give it to Shane mentality’. Sometimes it worked but it always seemed to mne that they would slip into it very easily and it could work to their detriment.

    1. To a lesser degree I agree with the removal of the ‘give it to Shane’ thing. whilst i think we will miss him, for his ability to turn games on a sixpence, I think there are advantages as you rightly say.

      The main advantage is that we are now using another winger that suits our game plan. The plan dictates smashing midfield, getting past the gain line, and creating miss matches and overlaps out wide, which we can then exploit.

      So bigger midfield runners who tie in defenders are more useful to that tactic, so long as they also have the pace to beat the miss matches created.

      Shane was a superb midfield runner, beating tacklers with ease. But he beat them, not sucked them into a tackle which tied them into rucks. Having two wingers that can tie in the faster midfielders and wingers means that forwards need to fill the gaps, giving better chances of there being those miss matches.

      We’ll miss him, no doubt, but what we have now better suits what we are trying to do imo

  20. I simply do no think any team could possibly be strengthened by losing Shane. The reason why there was a ‘ship it to Shane’ mentality is because he nearly always beats his man, then the next man, and the man after that… He also offered somehing a bit defferent from the likes of Roberts, Davies, North, Cuthbert who, although are very strong players (North especially), are fairly similar in the sense they look to smash through contact rather than doing a Shane and using quick-feet. England’s midfield is extremely strong defensively and manu and barrit are big boys and I can’t see North and Cuthbert cutting through them off the wing (as they did against Scotland and Wales) whereas I can see Shane being able to dart in between them with relative ease. I’m English but have big love for Shane, one of the true greats of the game. This match is going to be very interesting and hopefully exciting.

    1. In NO way am I saying we are better without Shane. What he detracted from in our game plan he made up twice over with his ability to beat a man and conjure something special. so don’t get me wrong, I’d have vintage Shane back any day of the week.

      In the case of North and Cuthbert punching holes in the midfield…they don’t have to, that’s the point of them. Their job is to tie in a couple of defenders. So whilst they may not punch holes, if they can stay on their feet long enough for another England player or two to be drawn into the tackle area, hen hit the deck, they will have done their job. The plan will then be to move the ball wide, exploiting either overlaps, or forwards in the line, created by the big wingers tying in defenders to the breakdown.

      Breaking tackles happens rarely enough (though it happened vs both Ireland and Scotland) that planning for that would be daft. But planning for their strength telling enough to suck in additional defenders (even if just the tackler and a flanker), means that our blindside winger will have created extra space out open, whilst the English blindside winger is not able to leave his wing for risk of a snipe or cross field kick from Priestland.

      The power of the backs isn’t really in their power in breaking tackles, which helps, but in the need for defences to be sucked in to cope with them.

  21. Interesting analysis. Was just discussing with a colleague whether Wales are a bit too crash bang wallop straight up and down to beat the best but as you say it’s crash bang wallop within a defined game plan and structure rather than just hoping the opposition misses a few tackles. The thing I admire is the tempo they play at which suggests every player completely understands and buys in to exactly what they’re trying to do. Graft on top some of the skills shown by eg Priestland and North against Ireland and that’s a pretty potent mixture.

    1. Exactly, it is crash bang wallop a lot, because it is done with an aim in mind. The players can still produce something extra when they need to, you cite two good examples.

      It’s not the magic of the likes of Hook or Shane, but because it is structured it is more dependable, and allows Wales to trust their systems rather than trying to break the game up, which can just as easily backfire as it can work

      I miss the magic of ickle shane, but this system makes sense and seems to be working. We’ve still got Halfpenny there for the occasional moment of magic, and North and Cuthbert are no slouches pace wise, and can create something with clever offloads out of contact.

      It’s a team with a purpose. It’s why Priestland looks so good. He might not be a world beater in the mould of the likes of Carter, but he has the perfect skill set for the system in place.

  22. Fair enough, still don’t think it’ll be as effective as it has been but I completely agree about Priestland – his head is in exactly the right place. It’s a shame that Hook has been off form because on his day he can be outstanding and I reckon leigh might be even better on the wing than he is at full-back?

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