Wales'veteran Alun Wyn Jones in the middle of the group of Wales players in training. Pic: Getty Images.

Wales Were Slow And Punchless Against Scotland . . . But This Team Is Built To Hit Like Joe Calzaghe And They Can Floor England

After the strike that never was, the shock result that could be. Coach and rugby analyst Tomas Marks looks at the painful lessons from Murrayfield and believes Wales can benefit from the shake-up that followed.

After a turbulent week off the pitch it’s all systems go for Wales against England.

The performance against Scotland will have been dissected thoroughly and the main learnings from the match were the failure of the attack, inferior tackle success, and continuing ill discipline.

In attack, Wales made only one line break, made a mere 2.3 metres per carry, and wasted three red zone set piece opportunities.

The front five carried the ball 31 times against the Scots but it didn’t penetrate the defence or create go-forward ball for Wales.

Alex King, the Wales attack coach, needs to come up with an attack structure that allows the ball to get to our most dangerous strike runners.

Rio Dyer was the only player to gain more than 50 metres for Wales, but Scotland managed to get the ball into the possession of their most potent strike runners, resulting in the trio of Duhan van der Merwe, Huw Jones and Blair Kinghorn making 237 metres.

Rio Dyer of Wales hands off Huw Jones of Scotland. Pic: getty Images.

Gareth Edwards recently stated in the BBC “Slammed” documentary that teams were scared to play against them in the 1970’s as the opposition had to put out too many fires.

In that last match the Scots contained the poor Welsh attack, which has resulted in cataclysmic changes in the Welsh team.

Lous Rees-Zammit, Josh Adams and Liam Williams are probably our best attacking back three. However,  Williams made a series of errors in the opening two rounds.

In the second half at Murrayfield, he was inaccurate on a clear-out in the Scots’ 22, he was slow to react to a 50:22 from Finn Russell, and was sin-binned once again on a jackal attempt.

Wales Inaccuracy at Murrayfield

It’s no shock to see the veteran Leigh Halfpenny back at 15, as he is still a world class goalkicker and brilliant operator of the back field.

Having analysed the England match against Italy, the back field organisation will be important and Halfpenny is the perfect choice at 15 to eliminate any attacking kicks and to win the kicking battle.

Having Rees-Zammit and Mason Grady in the new backline will cause some discomfort for the English and Owen Williams and Joe Hawkins will need to engineer more opportunities for these two stars.

The previous centre combination was leaky in defence with Hawkins and George North in a lowly 63% tackle success.

North was down to 58% tackle success from the opening two rounds and, unfortunately, Wales just haven’t got the most out of the Welsh powerhouse.

North’s performances have resulted in him being axed for this match but he’s still the third-most capped player ever for Wales, has the second most tries with 43, and the coaching team need to re-invigorate his game with and without the ball.

I’m sure we’ll see him again in a Welsh shirt as he’s had a glittering international career.

Centurion Dan Biggar has been a warrior of an international for over a decade.

Opportunity Knocks For Owen Williams

However, from the opening two rounds in this campaign, Wales have only created one try from his guidance at fly-half.

At Murrayfield, he wasted turnover ball, penalty advantage opportunities and failed to pull the trigger in attack.

Gareth Anscombe is a big loss to the Welsh squad as he got the best out of Hawkins and North against Australia in the autumn until his untimely injury.

Given that Owen Williams plays with Hawkins at the Ospreys there will be more synergy in attack and defence and this is a great opportunity for Williams to build on his four Welsh caps.

Gatland will hope that the Ystradgynlais RFC product can spark the backline and with Halfpenny likely to be the main goal kicker Williams can really focus his energy on leading the attack.

The new centre pairing know each other well having played in the Wales U20s together and their chemistry could energise the Welsh attack.

New boy Grady, like scrum-half Tomos Williams, is a former Welsh junior basketballer and he brings an all-court game as well as speed and size.

Grady weighing it at 110kg is the same weight as Sonny Bill Williams and we hope he can release his long arms in the tackle to free the Welsh supporting players.

The Welsh starting pack boasts 564 caps, an average of 70 caps per forward which is vast Test experience, which could be a point of difference in this heated battle in Cardiff.

Ken Owens will have five line-out jumpers in this encounter which will give England head coach Steve Borthwick a challenge in his defensive line-out set-up.

Kyle Sinckler pushed the boundaries in the scrum against the Italians and taught them a few lessons in the dark arts of scrummaging.

However, I’m sure Warren Gatland would have highlighted a few bad pictures to the match referee Mathieu Raynal.

The Frenchman can be a ruthless referee as he showed when he controversially awarded New Zealand a 79th minute scrum in the Bledisloe Cup last September – penalising Australia for what he saw as delaying tactics.

During this Six Nations, the bench has been inaccurate, so this a great opportunity for Bradley Roberts, Kieran Hardy and Nick Tompkins to shine.

It’s been a dramatic week for Welsh rugby, but it would be great to watch some of our Welsh legends potentially playing their last home Six Nations match and defining those farewells with a win.

Wales can also cherish a rising star making his international debut in Grady.

Gatland’s Wales have always thrived on being underdogs and they should take inspiration from the pride of Wales, Joe Calzaghe, who beat Mikkel Kessler when Calzaghe was 35 years old in 2007.

Kessler, like the current English team, was seven years junior of Calzaghe and 90% of the media outlets wrote off Calzaghe.

The Welsh team, like Calzaghe then, will need to win every round, every battle, and every inch to reign in Cardiff on Saturday night.

 

 

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