Jamie Hosie recently caught up with ex-Wales winger Shane Williams to discuss the Ireland defeat, Wales’ misuse of James Hook and what challenges the French will bring. Read the full interview below.
JH: Wales’ most recent game against Ireland was a disaster – what went wrong that day?
SW: Ireland were just the better side. They nullified anything that Wales tried to do, and almost strangled them into submission. It wasn’t the prettiest or the most spectacular of games, but Ireland did exactly what they had to do and tactically they were spot on.
JH: Wales struggled when Ireland nullified their power game – do you think they need to be developing a Plan B?
SW: Games can be one-offs sometimes, and teams can shock you by the way they play, or with the tactics that they bring to the game. But yes, it just seemed like anything Wales tried to do Ireland just nullified it really well – they frustrated Wales, and I think it was a record number of penalties given away by them.
When Wales got into dominant gear they just lacked that cutting edge sometimes, and they definitely didn’t involve the back three enough in attack; George North and Alex Cuthbert were almost redundant in that game, and these are the players that you want getting 20 or more touches in a game. So it looked like they didn’t really have an answer to what Ireland were throwing at Wales on the day.
JH: With that in mind, and with Scott Williams getting injured early, were you surprised not to see James Hook being used?
SW: Obviously I’m a big fan of James Hook – I think he brings something different to the team. He’s very creative, certainly a player that knows where the mismatches are on the field, knows how to create half a gap, and players seem to react from that around him – of course, I’d love to see James playing a lot more.
He doesn’t seem to be used at all these days really, and he brings a cutting edge to the midfield. With the injuries that Wales have got now, there’s an option for James to be involved, but then also they like to play George North in that centre position as well.
James’ biggest problem, and it’s not a bad problem to have, is that he’s so effective in so many positions, that it’s almost kept him away from a starting position. I’ve played with James at outside half and I used to love it because he used to create half a gap, pass me the ball and I used to score half the time off the back of his hard work!
But he’s such a gifted player that can play so many positions that he can’t quite prove to Warren that he warrants that starting spot in any of the positions, and it’s a shame really because he is a player that deserves a chance and he’s certainly proven his worth over the years, and I don’t think I’m the only person in Wales that wants to see him playing.
JH: How will the French test be different this weekend?
SW: It’s a big game for Wales coming up against France – they’re a side that play on confidence, which is very dangerous, and they’re a side that you have to have a Plan A, Plan B and Plan C against because they’re a side very capable of scoring tries, and are very physical as well, so you can’t try and bully them up front.
You’ve really got to try and have some gameplan behind the pack as well, and I’m sure the Welsh team will have learnt from that experience in Dublin.
It’s a big game for Wales – they’re going to have to pick up their performance, but knowing the Welsh players and the pride they’ve got, playing at home, they’re going to have to play well. It’s a big weekend with Ireland v England and Wales v France, and I think the tournament could be decided this week.
Photo by: Patrick Khachfe / Onside Images