Planet Rugby

State of the Nation: Wales

19th March 2014 09:14

Share:

Warren Gatland Wales

Calls to make: Warren Gatland

As we do at the end of a major tournament, we look at the state of affairs in each of the competing nations. Next up, Wales!

Warren Gatland has previously had a knack of finishing in a certain position with Wales in the Six Nations since taking over in 2008. It's either first, winning a trophy and possibly sometimes a Grand Slam, or fourth. Coming third in 2014 therefore marks a change.

The majority of the calls about Wales in the last few weeks of the Six Nations have been that fundamental change is necessary ahead of the next World Cup.

Yes, Wales defeated Italy, France and Scotland at home, but it's the away games that count for more because in England and Ireland there are two opponents that Wales will and could run into in the World Cup - a RWC nonetheless that Wales have been tipped to do well in since losing the 2011 semi-final.

It's not a crisis, yet. Jamie Roberts bar that kick against England was at his best. Leigh Halfpenny quite literally gave everything, even his shoulder. Sam Warburton grew.

Dropping Mike Phillips gave the veteran a necessary jolt, with Rhys Webb shining against France before just trying too hard against England. Rhys Priestland is another who delivered no lack of effort, but just failed to execute too often, drawing unacceptable boos from his home fans when he came on against Scotland.

Wales just have too many lingering doubts. If their big carriers cannot get around the corner as they have done so effectively in years past, then the kicking game dries up, as do the territory and penalties and therefore points. The death of 'Warrenball'? Maybe not, but a Plan B must be ready and new players can make that happen.

Those doubts stretch to selection too. Gethin Jenkins is now the most-capped Welsh player of all time, yet was penalised more at the scrum (two yellow cards) than his narrow rival Paul James.

Adam Jones is another who cannot go on forever, hence the need to develop Rhodri Jones and Samson Lee. Ken Owens earned his chance to start ahead of Richard Hibbard.

Dan Biggar should always have been the starting number ten from week one. Jonathan Davies was understandably not firing on all cylinders after such a long time out. George North: spectacular. Alex Cuthbert? A single try compared to last year's four.

The Lions tour has arguably takes its toll. Halfpenny and Warburton, arguably the two biggest players for Wales, are both out of the tour to South Africa. That makes what were already slim chances for Wales to win in the Republic even smaller.

A defeatist attitude isn't necessarily the right one to have, but if the tour is already a lost cause - which it seems to be on paper - then why flog players such as Adam Jones, Alun Wyn Jones, North and Roberts through another gruelling month when a World Cup awaits next year?

England are fresh with only a handful of players that played for the Lions involved, and even some of those such as Dan Cole, Geoff Parling, Tom Croft and Manu Tuilagi have had long periods to recover from injuries.

In the areas where there are concerns about depth, why not give reserve players time to flourish. There are a few bigger tests of a player then travelling to face the Springboks.

More importantly Wales have an abundance of talent to tap into. Lee, Andrew Coombs, Aaron Shingler, Webb, Rhodri Williams, Owen Williams, Rhys Patchell, Cory Allen, Jordan Williams and Hallam Amos all deserve a shot. Liam Williams came in for Halfpenny against Scotland and, admittedly against 14 men, stood out.

Flogging the veterans and integral players in South Africa when there is a bigger prize on the horizon seems pointless.

There is little about his first-choice squad that Warren Gatland doesn't already know, plus a November schedule and next year's Six Nations to come in which to integrate new tactics into rested stars.

Wales will look for revenge against Ireland and England next year. Only bold, considerate decisions on selection will make that happen.

by Ben Coles

Forthcoming Fixtures
FixtureDetails
All times are local
Aviva Premiership
Friday , September 5
Northampton vs Gloucester19:45
Saturday , September 6
Saracens vs Wasps14:00
Sale vs Bath14:00
Leicester vs Newcastle15:00
London Irish vs Harlequins16:30
Sunday , September 7
London Welsh vs Exeter14:00
More Aviva Premiership fixtures
Rugby Championship
Saturday , September 6
New Zealand vs Argentina08:35
Australia vs South Africa11:05
More Rugby Championship fixtures
Guinness PRO12
Friday , September 5
Ospreys vs Benetton Treviso19:35
Munster vs Edinburgh19:35
Saturday , September 6
Scarlets vs Ulster14:40
Connacht vs Newport Gwent D'gons17:00
Glasgow vs Leinster17:15
Sunday , September 7
Zebre vs Cardiff Blues17:00
More Guinness PRO12 fixtures
Top 14
Friday , September 5
Montpellier vs Castres20:45
Saturday , September 6
Brive vs Toulouse14:45
Clermont Auvergne vs Racing Metro Paris17:00
Lyon vs Oyonnax18:30
Stade Francais vs Bayonne18:30
Grenoble vs La Rochelle18:30
Toulon vs Bordeaux-Begles20:45
More Top 14 fixtures
Currie Cup
Friday , September 5
Western Province vs Eastern Province Kings19:10
Saturday , September 6
Cheetahs vs Pumas15:00
Sharks vs Griquas17:05
Blue Bulls vs Lions19:10
More Currie Cup fixtures
Recent Results
FixtureDetails
All times are local
ITM Cup
Sunday , August 31
Taranaki 41 - 3 Bay Of PlentyTaranaki vs Bay Of Plenty Report
Auckland 16 - 16 TasmanAuckland vs Tasman Report
More ITM Cup results
Top 14
Saturday , August 30
La Rochelle 37 - 25 ToulouseLa Rochelle vs Toulouse Report
Grenoble 37 - 23 Bordeaux-Begles
Oyonnax 33 - 6 Stade Francais
Castres 30 - 6 BayonneCastres vs Bayonne Report
Racing Metro Paris 17 - 10 ToulonRacing Metro Paris vs Toulon Report
Lyon 24 - 6 Brive
More Top 14 results
Currie Cup
Griquas 25 - 36 CheetahsGriquas vs Cheetahs Report
Eastern Province Kings 22 - 41 LionsEastern Province Kings vs Lions Report
Blue Bulls 18 - 23 Western ProvinceBlue Bulls vs Western Province Report
More Currie Cup results
ITM Cup
Counties Manukau 21 - 27 Hawkes BayCounties Manukau vs Hawkes Bay Report
Southland 22 - 33 Otago
North Harbour 16 - 22 WaikatoNorth Harbour vs Waikato Report
More ITM Cup results
Top 14
Friday , August 29
Clermont Auvergne 20 - 21 MontpellierClermont Auvergne vs Montpellier Report
More Top 14 results
Currie Cup
Pumas 32 - 22 SharksPumas vs Sharks Report
More Currie Cup results
ITM Cup
Wellington 21 - 27 ManawatuWellington vs Manawatu Report
Thursday , August 28
Canterbury 48 - 3 NorthlandCanterbury vs Northland Report
Wednesday, August 27
Waikato 17 - 46 TaranakiWaikato vs Taranaki Report
Sunday , August 24
Manawatu 7 - 35 AucklandManawatu vs Auckland Report
Bay Of Plenty 27 - 56 TasmanBay Of Plenty vs Tasman Report
More ITM Cup results
Rugby Championship
Saturday , August 23
New Zealand 51 - 20 AustraliaNew Zealand vs Australia Report
Argentina 31 - 33 South AfricaArgentina vs South Africa Report
More Rugby Championship results
Top 14
Brive 6 - 21 Clermont AuvergneBrive vs Clermont Auvergne Report
Bayonne 38 - 12 Oyonnax
More Top 14 results
Aviva Premiership Table
PosTeamPPts
1Bath00
2Exeter00
3Gloucester00
4Harlequins00
5Leicester Tigers00