There has been talk this week that Wales’ game in Ireland on Friday night is a “must-win” one for Wayne Pivac. Harri Morgan begs to differ. For him, it’s more about “must change” for Pivac who should ditch the suit, bring back the baseball cap, and deliver the revolution he was expected to oversee.
On the night of Friday, January 12th, 2018, Wayne Pivac could have re-directed the team bus to Welsh Rugby Union headquarters and declared a coup d’etat.
And there would have been little in the way of resistance or dissent from the public.
Having been responsible for shifting the expectation of success to 1970s level, there were those in Wales ready to hang the Warren Gatland regime for failing to obtain the standard it had itself created.
No silverware since 2013, a fifth place finish in the previous Six Nations, and to use TMO speak – no clear and obvious route to Rugby World Cup glory.
If Warrenball was yet to pass it’s use by date, it certainly had a yellow sticker.
Earlier that evening, Pivac had watched on in a baseball cap, hoody and track jacket as his Scarlets attack had wreaked havoc against Bath at The Rec.
They had done so with a fine paint brush rather than power tools.
It was a night on the banks of the River Avon that holds in the memory as much for the performance as the result – a rare occurrence in the win at all costs world of professional sport.
Social media had seen the light. Warren was toast. It was time for Wayne’s way – an expansive and evasive approach to rugby union. The Welsh way – in myth and memory, at least.
The result and performance lit the touch paper for the Scarlets’ campaign in Europe.
There followed a night to remember against Toulon and a really good Friday at home to La Rochelle to send the Scarlets to Dublin for a semi-final match up with Leinster.
The semi-final should have held happy memories for Pivac and his players. A year prior at the RDS, the Scarlets had defied the odds to book a place in the Guinness Pro 14’s showpiece.
They were outsider odds that would have lengthened notably when Steff Evans was sent from the field for a tip tackle, just prior to the break.
But that second game against Leinster was to be different. The venue changed for starters, a Test match arena up the road.
Only one team upgraded their performance to that demanded by such a venue and it wasn’t the team in red.
Wayne Pivac wants to bring the belief back to #Wales.
‘The self-belief and the determination we had without the ball as a Welsh team, we have to get that back very quickly, because we don’t want that eroded away, because it’s a special quality to have.’https://t.co/ti9KJZRkFa
— Will Kelleher (@willgkelleher) November 12, 2020
Travelling supporters felt aggrieved at the lack of neutrality, but it was Test match level brutality of the boys in blue that made sure it was Leinster who advanced to Europe’s big dance.
The power tools severed the arm of the artist with each attempted brush stroke.
Pivac left the Aviva Stadium that day with a conundrum of how the baller could overcome the bully.
As he returns this week that question seems as pertinent as ever.
Having been over-powered in Paris by France, Wales seemed so intent on being physically dominant against the Scots that they forgot to do anything else.
The coach was critical in that aftermath for the lack of shots fired by his team, but I’m not sure the pistol even left the holster.
It is a relief that Wales’ lack of attacking thought and execution wasn’t part of the plan, but it won’t be long before such a statement will be met with retort demanding an explanation as to precisely why the ammunition failed to discharge.
A matter of greater intrigue is the plan of action with which the marksmen enter the kill zone.
Do the coaching staff still believe in the all-action, ball-moving approach which saw them appointed?
If so, then the next month is the time to roll it out. I don’t just mean a soft implementation. Do it properly.
Suit off and bring back the baseball cap.
There may be some short term pain, and I don’t just mean the ticking off from your boss for not fulfilling your contractual obligation to the garment supplier.
I’m talking mistakes, possibly Test match defeats. More of them.
But the Autumn Cup provides a unique opportunity to develop both a playing strategy and underlying processes to allow Wales to be competing for silver rather than a spoon come spring.
World Cup seedings are locked in. Does anyone really care about rankings? Just delete whoever is sharing them on social media and you won’t even think about it.
I accept there is inherent value in winning. It was a key ingredient to the ’Gatland Premium’ – the notion of players ratcheting up performance levels when turning out in a Welsh jersey as opposed to the regional one.
Interesting move by Wayne Pivac sacking his defence coach who he works with for more than 6 years 🤨🤨🤨 I said this before he is not the right man for the top job in Wales 🏉🏉
— Tevita Tiueti (@TiuetiTevita) November 11, 2020
Players entered an environment where there was a precedent of success – ‘might win’ became ’will win’. The 2019 Six Nations is a fine example of how such a mindset can become self-fulfilling.
But where Wales are at this moment, on the back of the last two performances, the need to establish better processes and cohesion has greater value for the next 12 months than an emotional ‘we’ll show them’ win at an empty Aviva.
It only counts if there are fans there, right? Bring back fans.
Wayne, they are circling.
Now is the time to do it your way. If you fail, you fail. You were hired on a mandate of pace and space.