State of the Nation: Balance needed for frustrating Wales

Date published: March 17 2020

With the Six Nations done and dusted, for now at least, we look at the state of affairs in each of the competing nations. Next up, Wales.

It was always going to be a tough ask for Wayne Pivac to replace Warren Gatland after the success the 56-year-old enjoyed, but supporters would have expected a bit more from their side.

After a positive start, which saw Pivac enjoy a dominant 42-0 debut win against Italy, it has all rather gone downhill. Successive defeats to Ireland, France and England – their worst run in the competition since 2007 – has left the country frustrated.

There have been positive aspects to their performances, with the new head coach’s game plan beginning to show signs of working, but there have also been far too many errant facets to their play.

The scrum has been a constant issue while their numerous mistakes with ball in hand has given the initiative to the opposition. Wales’ boss likes to play an expansive style and, at times, it put France and England under pressure, but errors pervaded their play and they ended up succumbing to narrow defeats.

You have to admire their ambition and ability to score some scintillating tries, but that does not win you tight Test matches against the best teams in the world. ‘Circumspect’ may therefore be the watchword going into their next matches, whenever they may be.

Wales need to find a balance between spreading the ball wide and kicking after particularly being overwhelmed by the Red Rose’s rush defence in Round Four. The hosts constantly sent them into reverse and, as a result, they built up an insurmountable margin.

Credit must go to the Welsh for their fightback but that ability to control the game was lacking during the tournament. It is easily fixable, given their impressive options in the playmaking positions, but there just needs to be a slight alteration in decision-making.

Should they do that then they have the talent to once again challenge for titles and beat the top sides in the world. In Nick Tompkins, despite his second round struggles against Ireland, they have found a potential world-class asset, while they have talent to come back in the shape of Josh Adams, Gareth Anscombe and Jonathan Davies.

Talented teenager Louis Rees-Zammit should also make his debut sometime in the next year, which means they have talent aplenty behind the scrum.

The back-row is also well set but it is in the front five where they have a few more concerns. With Alun Wyn Jones playing well but not getting any younger, the Welsh just don’t currently have the top-end ability of some of the other nations in that area.

Dillon Lewis has potential and looseheads Wyn Jones and Rob Evans are good international players, but as a unit it simply isn’t as efficient as England, Ireland, France and perhaps even Scotland at the moment.

Nevertheless, there is enough to be positive about and Pivac currently has time on his side to rectify the problems later on in the year and heading into 2021, but fans will demand to see improved results over the next 12 months.