Wales finally have strength in depth...so who actually starts at the RWC!?

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Wales finally have strength in depth...so who actually starts at the RWC!?

Post by miaow on Mon 26 Nov 2018, 1:41 am

First topic message reminder :

majesticimperialman wrote:Is the Welsh team that played against the Boks  the team for the coming 6ns/world cup?

Or is there more players to come back in to the team/squad?

A few people have answered this in another thread, but I thought I'd start a new thread, add my thoughts, and see what others think on this and a few other general points surrounding the Welsh team.

EDIT: I've also edited this to keep it a rolling thread about selection in the run up to the RWC.

The interesting, and perhaps 'good' thing, is that - for the first time in a long time - there is almost no 'first 'team'. There are no real stars in the team anymore - either the likes of Alfie, Ryan Jones, Henson etc., or later with the Galacticos, and even then the more recent 'Warburton' crop etc with Roberts, Lydiate, North, even Halfpenny being picked and still lauded by the casual Welsh rugby fan because of notoriety rather than form/ability.

There are still 'stars' in the team, of course, but for some reason it feels like they don't have that aura around them any more - perhaps because they haven't won anything with Wales for a while, even if they've performed for the Lions. In the best possible way, I think that's a good thing. What I'm trying to say, in a roundabout way, is that there appears to be more humility within the squad - ethics, values etc - as well as an acceptance that you actually are now only a bad game or two away from losing the shirt. A few things contribute to this, but the second and third choice players actually turning up for the first time in Gatland's reign (barring the RWC '11 when he opted for the youngsters like Warburton, Lydiate, Faletau, North etc. en masse) is the most important one; the fact they've produced both individually when called upon, and collectively in the last two summer tours, has meant he hasn't had to do an Aled Brew/Deiniol Jones/Dan Biggar (Samoa '09, seems so long ago...) and cut short the playing career of a reserve, giving the first choice player an almost iron-clad guarantee they'll be picked. Biggar, Jamie Roberts, Scott Williams, Dan Lydiate, Justin Tipuric, Halfpenny, North and Liam Williams have all been pressurised into producing better and more consistent rugby, or dropped. Almost to a man, those who have been retained have responded.

This results in a team in transition, which is exactly where Gatland seemingly wants his teams before a RWC. 2010/11 was the worst season of Gatland's reign in many ways, and then like that he produces arguably the best team Wales have had in his tenure. 2015 6Ns they played very little football, only changing the way they attacked from rucks in the warm up games - but for some shocking mental strength and attacking nerve against Australia, they would have won their group later than year in the RWC. Despite the injuries suffered, who knows how they would have fared against Scotland and then Argentina. This time, in 2018, winning games has probably allowed Wales to do a bit more in terms of varying their attack early on this time, because they look fit/strong/driven enough this autumn, which is never normally the case - it always felt like lots of effort was going on building them up so as not to fail, rather than to win. Those foundations are more solid now and I wouldn't expect as dramatic a change in performance come Japan next year, but make no mistake, Gatland will have plenty up his sleeve come Japan. I wouldn't be surprised if Wales are somewhat disappointing this 6Ns because of this - maybe a 3rd or 4th place finish. That said, I also have a feeling Gatland may fancy his chances for one last title. Wales haven't won anything since 2013, which feels both fair and like a slight underachievement. It cannot be dismissed the importance of having him 'here', rather than off with the Lions - or nursing his heels in NZ - for a good, sustained period of time. With England and Ireland at home, Italy looking poor, France looking bulkier and poor, and Scotland looking dangerous but physically weak, a Grand Slam or 6Ns title isn't out of the equation. I think Wales can squeeze Ireland (some claim, but they did it in 2015 and 2017) - having not beaten England for a long time in the 6Ns (2013! Incredible - definitely something of a stumbling block) despite having dominated the 2017 fixture, Wales really need to put them away. Deal with their physical threat, play ruthlessly on the counter, and England will switch off/show their weaknesses. They're a hot and cold team; potentially devastating but, a bit like a (much better) Australia, they're clearly not a 'complete' team (unlike, say, Ireland).

Strangely, in terms of the dynamic of the team, I'd say Warburton retiring has probably left a gap in the team with regard to leadership (obviously) but also 'star' potential. He's Gatland's boy. He was the bedrock of the side - the captain, but more importantly the player and the man the team is built around. In many ways, this team seems to still very much have his imprint there - hard working, dedicated, a bit too puritanical at times, but with the added niggle of AWJ as captain it feels more 'natural'. With both of them thre, regardless of who was captain, it felt a bit...not like there was a power struggle, but that one would always be slightly frustrated at not leading the team. If you have, say, BoD and PoC - fine, different areas of the pitch, v different roles, it works. For a workhorse forward and a workhorse back rower - with a chippy number 10 in there who likes a moan as well - there were too many cooks. With AWJ as captain, he feels like the leader surrounded by lots of vice captains - Tipuric, Ellis Jenkins, Biggar, Jon Davies, Ken Owens. Warburton could never be that - he's too big, too important, too good a captain.

Come knockout time at the RWC, I don't think there's a better person to have on the field than Warburton - as a captain or player. But him not being there has allowed a sustained run of games for a few players to shine - namely Tipuric, Shingler, and Navidi. Ultimately, only Tipuric may start of those 3, but Warburton's absence has allowed/forced Gatland to nail down the 6 shirt. Tipuric and Warburton never really worked - for whatever reason, and there's loads that can be considered. The main ones are the coaches didn't like/trust it, but I also think it wasn't good enough, either. Warburton was incredible, and diversified his game as time went on, but he was still a fetcher. They were different players - Tipuric playing wide in the Ben Coles role in the loose, Warburton 'taking away' more opposition players at the breakdown - but not different enough. Certainly, against the likes of South Africa or England, without players like Jake Ball, North, or Ken Owens to do some hard grunt work, you never got to see each player shine with two opensides on the flanks. It wasn't dreadful, but I think the Welsh backrow is much more balanced now.

Which leads me on to the next point: the fact that Wales finally have an interchangeable side. As alluded to above, there are many 50:50 calls. Of the spine of the team Gatland could pick, I can think of only 3 players who he will pick irrespective of form. They are AWJ, Faletau, and Jonathan Davies; that's 5, 8, and 13. Massively important positions, but 2, 9, 10, and 15 aren't nailed on like they used to be. Hibbard, Phillips, Biggar, and Halfpenny have been his favourites, but that's no longer the case in these positions. I think Ken Owens isn't far off being integral at 2, and I'd say he should have been for a lot longer than he has been first choice for Wales, but for whatever reason Gatland has gone for Scott Baldwin and Jamie George ahead of him when, for me, he is a fair bit better than both, certainly the former.

At 9, I think this Autumn has really put the cat among the pigeons. Gareth Davies was always nipping at Webb's heels, and he undoubtedly has his strengths, but he also has poor game managemant relative to his other abilities. He's not at the Ben Youngs/Danny Care level of meltdown, but he can be frustrating - though he played well against South Africa, against Australia he was a liability in the second half. If Webb isn't 'loaned' to a Welsh region for the RWC next year, then I think Tomos Williams stands a very good chance of superceding him next summer and starting in Japan. I'll come on to that point at the end.

10 isn't too dissimilar. I think Gatland has actually opted for Anscombe now as his first choice 10, as was always his intention 3 years ago when he brought him over. However, if he has a shocker, or goes off form, or suffers a few niggles, he'll bring Biggar back, no problem. Or Patchell, depending on how he fares between now and next autumn. I think it will require one of Biggar or Anscombe suffering an injury, and Patchell making up for a shaky - although not dreadful - performance at Twickenham earlier this year, for Patchell to get the gametime to put him in the frame as #2, but if that does happen, it's money in the bank, and Patchell offers something the other two do not. Perhaps the best way to break down the 10 debate is to view it through the Pivac reign: Patchell will be Pivac's #10. There's almost no doubt about that. He might give one of the others a run in the shirt initially, particularly if they've had a great RWC beforehand, but eventually, if Stephen Jones does become attack coach, Wales will play with Patchell at 10. He's easily the most talented and complete player of the 3; however, that doesn't mean he's the best choice, and it certainly doesn't mean he's the best choice *right now*, 12 months away from a RWC, with Gatland as head coach. Anscombe is a nice compromise between the other 2; not as limited as Biggar, but not as flaky and inexperienced as Patchell is right now. He's not as talented at instinctively reading the play and executing the correct choice as Patchell (who is second only to Sexton in my opinion in the NH, better than Finn Russell or any 10 England will actually pick - haven't seen enough of Cipriani to compare the two), nor is he as tirelessly excellent at the dogged work Biggar gets through with the boot and in defence. But he's a happy medium - at least for Gatand. It's such a tentative hierachy, however, that it could easily change from the 6Ns to the summer to the RWC. Very much up in the air, but Anscombe is first choice; Gatland even telling the media to 'stop debating' this is a sign he doesn't want to be fielding questions or for the public to pick up on how tight this is, because pressurising any/all of the 3 will ultimately hurt the team. It's tight, but don't mention it - in fact, don't even look at it. Stop looking. It's Anscombe. Or Biggar. Maybe. Now go away...

15 is more simple I think - it's Leigh Halfpenny with Liam Williams on the wing. However, as he showed with the Lions, he'll happily drop an out of form 1/2P if required. Injuries are always Halfpenny's downfall - much like a few players who are there or thereabouts, but who may miss out from lack of playing time this season - and might be again, who knows, but in form, and playing with far more attacking confidence now he's been at the Scarlets, he's in the Ken Owens position of being almost-undroppable-but-not-quite.

Finally, I'll get round to the question that's been quoted. In short, I think the team for the 6Ns isn't necessarily the team that will be picked for the RWC - that'll be the apex, as it were, so I'll try to answer that with regards to who is in the first team.

1. Rob Evans is the best loosehead, but offers more from the bench than Nicky Smith. I honestly felt Wyn Jones was the second best #1 in Wales last season, pushing Rob Evans as a more 'old-school' (fatter, better scrummaging) prop than his clubmate. But Nicky Smith has stepped up at test level, and that's all that counts. 3 excellent options, if Gatland wants to maintain this second-wave from the bench - finishers, if you want - then Rob Evans maybe not start, despite being the 'best' loosehead prop. A few wobbles in the scrum, and Nicky Smith may get demoted to third-choice, though. I'd play Rob Evans, and think Gatland is simply giving Nicky Smith the starting minutes for experience rather than bedding him in as first choice, but it's very hard to tell. Precarious.

2. Ken Owens. Elliot Dee is having a stormer and really stepping up consistently considering he doesn't look test ready - still looks like a club player in terms of body shape and size (slim, rather than fat/out of shape). Fair play to him, he hasn't let Wales down at all. Really impressed by him. I dislike Kristian Dacey, something of the Cuthbert-looking-at-the-big-screen-while-grimacing-having-Frak-up about him. The hair makes him look like a poor man's Hibbard. Like he's trying a bit too hard to convince everyone he's...something I can't quite put my finger on. That he's tough? This isn't just a personal attack. What I'm trying to say is that he gives the impression of someone not really comfortable at test level. Like Cuthbert - someone so out of his depth, he was 'acting' half the time; he never got comfortable with himself, never felt at home with either his teammates nor himself on the field of play. This is absolutely a psychological thing, and in what is a practically impossible thing to prove, I get the same thing from Dacey. Partly, also, he's a very average rugby player, in the realm of Scott Baldwin. Scott Otten hasn't been given a shot, which is slightly surprising/disappointing - haven't watched him this season so unsure whether this is deserved or not. Ryan Elias is a phenomenal player. Like Wyn Jones, an excellent 3rd choice. Would be happy with him starting, but needs gametime - specifically Nicky Smith-esque gametime, i.e. as a starter. But Ken is still the man, no doubt.

3. 50:50 between Francis and Samson Lee. I would have had Francis out in front for the last two seasons as he had more to his game than Lee, but Samson's slimmed down and added a bit more skill to his game - tip on pass in the 6Ns? - and so it's Francis by a hair. It's practically indistinguishable, and I think Gatland may go for Lee starting and Francis coming on, which I think is the best way to use them. Big drop off to 3rd choice - Leon Brown hasn't really cut it for me, and Dillon Lewis (though excellent this when played) hasn't really been in a real test as such. Might be harsh on Lewis as I think he's 'got it', but just hasn't proven it in the heat of competition yet. Don't think he'd let Wales down when it comes; nor Brown would for that matter. Just wouldn't be sure of either at scrumtime, and for that reason, through no fault of their own, they're still liabilities.

4 & 5. AWJ. Jake Ball, Adam Beard, Cory Hill as his second choice. Seb Davies, Bradley Davies, Luke Charteris offering either youthful versatility of grizzled experience when push comes to shove/Wales have a glut of injuries in the group stage. It's horses for course this. I really, really like Jake Ball. Cannot praise him enough. Loved his linebreak and bump off against Tonga. More importantly, thought he was excellent but also vital against England in 2017. He is a rock with the ball in hand. Wales don't have those players. They just don't. They never really have. England do. They have Vunipola. But they've always had them. Martin Johnson. Dallaglio. They've always had them - big, strong, uncomplicated players who will make the opposition tackle. Ball's not as 'hard' as Johnson, but he's also now a lot more mobile and skillful. A bit like with Halfpenny, being at the Scarlets has seen him flourish and improve the elements of his game that are less 'natural' to him. He's got decent hands. He's surprisingly agile. He's a bit injury prone, and this may be his downfall, because he doesn't seem to be able to take a beating and get straight back into it the next game, but he is so important to Wales because they don't have players like him - someone who is not going to get bullied. Like an Adam Jones at second row - worth his weight in gold. That said, if you want to new Charteris for the lineout, you go Adam Beard, who clearly has great handling skills and stood up to a brutal South Africa pack. Cory Hill is like Elliot Dee- continues to impress despite not looking like a test player. I think it's between Ball and Beard to start, as Hill is more of an allrounder and a workhouse and neither tall enough as a defensive jumper (Australia's 6 10 locks) nor big enough as a lock against the South African/English scrums. But a great bench option, and clearly flourishing in the setup. Between Ball and Beard, I think it depends on who plays 6 i.e. do they have Shingler in the lineout or not. If not, Beard might be Gatland's choice. I'd be happy with that, but against the bigger teams (barring France who are sloppy as Smeg) Ball is crucial.

8. Let's get this out of the way. Faletau. Wales's best player. Moriarty a distant, but determined and reliable, understudy. Moving on...

7. Unbelievably tricky. 7 is Justin Tipuric. But could easily be Ellis Jenkins. I felt Gatland might be lining Jenkins up for the starting shirt before this autumn, but I think Tipuric has done enough - add in Jenkins' injury, and that should be decisive in who starts at openside. Sadly, I think that is how many positions will be decided for Japan, either in the lead up or during the tournament itself. Always horrible, but part of the game. Navidi a strong third choice who can cover all 3. For me, he's the only truly versatile back row player in that he could do a Pocock and pack down at 8 from now on an be excellent. Ellis Jenkins did amazingly from the base of the scrum against South Africa, but he's still more of an openside for me. Honestly though, with the way Wales play, the numbers on the back don't matter a huge deal when it comes to defence - it's more the personnel and how they line-up i.e. Tipuric will look to play wide in the phase play, or they look to get the ball to him when there's quick turnover ball. James Davies way off the equation, and not veratile enough to make the squad unfortunately. A few injuries and he may be in - he's ahead of Thomas Young, Ollie Griffiths, and Sam Cross, Macleod, Boyde, all of whom could do a job there too. I feel like there are more I'm forgetting because Wales are absolutely blessed at 7, but the key here is points of difference. If you're not Tipuric, you need to be able to slot in at #20, or even #6, and Jenkins and Navidi do that far better than James Davies.

6. For me, it's still Aaron Shingler, but this position gets dictated somewhat by who plays 7. Last time I posted on these boards was ahead of the Scotland game in the 6Ns to say he was the key player to how Wales were going to play, and he had a stormer (official man of the match). Suffering from injuries, as he has done throughout his career, and he may not make it back to this level - only time will tell. But he has something no other Welsh blindside can offer. Pacey, rangey, skillfull, athletic, tough as nails, can pinch a ball at the breakdown, and tactically astute. As a spot-blitz defender, he stood out (literally...) against England and Scotland. Criminally underused by Gatland in my opinion, particularly around 2013. Had something of an indian summer over the last 12-18 months in that it seemed his career was all but over, but thankfully he finally got the opportunity last season and grabbed it before this injury. If he can make it back - and in all likelihood that means not getting injured again before the RWC to develop match fitness - he could be one of the most important cogs in a post-Warburton Wales team. If he's injured, the whole back 5 has a competely different look. Next in line is, arguably, not a blindside flanker - someone like Jenkins, Navidi, or even Moriarty who can play that role decently enough. But it feels like a compromise on Shingler, in my opinion. In an era when the likes of Scott Barrett, Itoje, Lawes, and Sam Skinner are being picked at 6 as these 'third locks' to link the second and back rows more seamlessly, Shingler is Wales's best option here. Howeve, they've looked at Seb Davies this autumn in that role, and he did pretty well, but I don't think he's in serious contention of starting - more a good-to-know-we-can-if-desperate option. Aaron Wainwright did ok this autumn, was targeted by South Africa physically and didn't buckle, but I haven't seen the requisite point of difference to his game to really put him into a starting shirt - nice hands for Biggar's try against Tonga though. Like Cory Hill, workmanlike might translate into a squad place, and with an injury or two, a bench or even starting spot? Dan Lydiate has, unbelievably, given himself a chance with his performance against Australia. Gatland absolutely threw him a lifeline by picking him this autumn, and in fairness he did far better than expected against Australia; a player who steps up at test level, but for me is still too limited and one dimensional. Looked a lot sharper and fitter than he has done for a while though. Pedigree and experience, particularly without Warburton, work in his favour. Lydiate, Faletau, Tipuric isn't out of the question. I'd make Shingler nailed on if fit, but Gatland really did love Lydiate, and he didn't run away like Cuthbert. It's not out of the question that he takes the shirt next year.

9. Gareth Davies. Tomos Williams, with Aled Davies some way back. Can't see a way back for Webb unless an injury occurs in the RWC and Gatland says 'f the rules, I'm leaving in a fortnight...give me Webb!'. Plenty of adequate club players but no one comes close to the first two (3) choices Wales could pick - Lloyd Williams, Rhodri Williams etc.

10. Feel it's covered above. Anscombe. If Wales are really hit hard, there's a big gulf, but there are a few options. Interesting to see Dan Jones was ignored for Jarrod Evans this autumn - feel there is very little in that. Sam Davies could play his way back in if the Ospreys continue improving as the season goes on, but has suffered as that region has regressed/imploded.

12. Hadleigh Parkes. Not pulling up trees, nor a particularly standout player, but brings solidity. Scott Williams and, more likely, Owen Watkin cannot be too far away. Watkin in particular looks like Parkes' natural successor, the most well rounded #12 Wales have had since Henson. Which might not be saying much, but with 2-3 games in the 6Ns, I wouldn't rule him out from starting.

13. JD2. Scott Williams? Watkin? Of the dedicated outside-centres, is Tyler Morgan next in line? Cory Allen? That's some drop off, with no disrespect to Tyler Morgan, who hasn't really had the time to show what he's about (South Africa in the RWC as a literal boy, and then Tonga this year - v physical, and not where he will shine). Bit of a weakness here should Jon Davies get injured, as it'll likely involve playing a 12 at 13.

11 & 14.
Liam Williams and George North. Excellent, solid, well balanced wingers. Having them hitting form and combining...it's a really exciting prospect. It feels a long time - really since the days of Shane - since I can say I've been excited about the team getting the ball into the 3/4s, because it never really happened successfully with Roberts at 12, and a combination of personnel and lack of form meant Wales never executed or lived up to the threat they, on paper, possessed. North is guilty of that as much as anyone, but not playing for Northampton seems to have done him wonders. Didn't have an incredible, flashy autumn, but everything he did was good - much, much more reliable and threatening under the high ball, carried and stepped in the channels with aggression and intelligence. Finally the player he has threatened to be - even when not scoring wonder tries, he's consistently awkward and dangerous. Liam Williams is up there with Tipuric and Faletau as Wales's most naturally gifted players. If you're going to play for an English club, make sure it's the one that dominates almost every other team! It basically leaves Exeter and Saracens, so hopefully he doesn't suffer as North did when playing in the Premiership. After those two, there's a gap. Gatland doesn't like Steff Evans and I do understand it. He's arguably the most intelligent (rugby wise) winger Wales have, and maybe the most gifted with ball in hand, but he lacks that top, top speed which is so vital at this level. It's a real shame but I don't see a place for him in the #23. Josh Adams probably takes that shirt. Looks like he can fill in at full back, has more pace and power than Steff, and looks more solid defensively. Jonah Holmes has stood up and shown himself adequate if Liam Williams and/or Josh Adams gets injured - he can take that 14&15 place in the group if necessary, otherwise he doesn't make the RWC squad. Cuthbert seems finished, Hallam Amos is versatile but still lacks those physical attributes it seems. Luke Morgan has that pace, but didn't get the opportunity. Still v fresh to the 15 man game. Will be interesting to see what he can do for the rest of the season - a genuine bolter? Other than that, I can see a place in the 6Ns for a Cuthbert replacement as I feel like they've covered Liam Williams with Holmes, and Steff Evans with Morgan. Jarred Rosser? Owen Lane? Not out of the question. Feel like Ashton Hewitt and Keelan Giles are out of the equation until Pivac comes in.

15. Halfpenny. Depending on the game - Liam Williams. After that, I feel like it's squad filler: Anscombe, Patchell, Amos, Adams could all fill in there.

So that's my team. The final point I want to link back to is the fact that Gatland is sneaky. He's a sneaky man. For all his dedication to picking out of form players, and flogging-a-dead-Cuthbert, he's also prone to throwing a curveball in there on the biggest stage on a fairly regular occurrence. Liam Williams against NZ. Priestland in 2011 - although you could pick a few players from that era, Priestland stands out. These aren't just incidental players - they're not your openside winger, brought in because he's been tearing it up and you get the feeling he'll produce a try from nothing. This is the spine of the team in many cases with Gatland.

That's why I don't think it's unreasonable to think Patchell could end up as 10 for the WC. Or Tomos Williams. I think it's less likely this time, but it's not out of the question. Every position is under threat bar the 3 I think are certain. Any injury from now until the RWC opens the door for another player - it already has in the positions where players have been injured.

I'm really looking forward to Gatland's swansong. I'm glad it's ending on a relative high - even if he doesn't win either the 6Ns or the RWC. He seems much more mellow, much more circumspect and philosophical this autumn - I suppose personal circumstances will have played a large part there. But you also know he'll give everything in the RWC. The whole staff will be building for it, holding back plays etc. that will be unleashed at the right time. It makes, in many ways, a nice way to round off his tenure; it only feels like yesterday, in the autumn of '08, when he was berating his Grand Slam team for not matching the likes of South Africa and New Zealand, throwing the game away. They never really kicked on into what he wanted from Wales - he got that level from the Lions, you feel - but he finally got those to SH scalps this autumn, and I think he'd love a crack at the All Blacks, particularly if Wales are in form, in the RWC knockout stages.

I'm very much looking forward to the next 12 months and Warren Gatland's goodbye. I hope it lives up to the promise, and I hope it isn't devastated by injuries!


Last edited by miaow on Mon 25 Feb 2019, 7:23 pm; edited 1 time in total

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Re: Wales finally have strength in depth...so who actually starts at the RWC!?

Post by maestegmafia on Sun 10 Mar 2019, 3:24 pm

Even better still though in my opinion with Owen Or Scott Williams at 12

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Re: Wales finally have strength in depth...so who actually starts at the RWC!?

Post by mikey_dragon on Sun 10 Mar 2019, 3:32 pm

Or Owen Watkin at 12, has that x-factor that Scott Williams doesn't.

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Re: Wales finally have strength in depth...so who actually starts at the RWC!?

Post by mikey_dragon on Sun 10 Mar 2019, 3:35 pm

Presuming Ed wrote:The only thing I can say on this point is that the reason Wales are going into next weekend with a probable GS in their sights is Hadleigh Parkes. He has been immense for Wales and the man to build the team around going in to the RWC.
Obviously hope Ireland win next weekend but Wales have been solid and error free this 6N and thoroughly deserve their position with Hadleigh Parkes personifying the Welsh approach to the fore.


Last season yes, as he was the glue that held our backline together. This season, no. He's lost the ball too often on the crashball, and he's too slow which makes him vulnerable in defence. He was good yesterday but I'm not sure why he was MOTM, JD2 was better.

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Re: Wales finally have strength in depth...so who actually starts at the RWC!?

Post by maestegmafia on Sun 10 Mar 2019, 3:44 pm

mikey_dragon wrote:
Presuming Ed wrote:The only thing I can say on this point is that the reason Wales are going into next weekend with a probable GS in their sights is Hadleigh Parkes. He has been immense for Wales and the man to build the team around going in to the RWC.
Obviously hope Ireland win next weekend but Wales have been solid and error free this 6N and thoroughly deserve their position with Hadleigh Parkes personifying the Welsh approach to the fore.


Last season yes, as he was the glue that held our backline together. This season, no. He's lost the ball too often on the crashball, and he's too slow which makes him vulnerable in defence. He was good yesterday but I'm not sure why he was MOTM, JD2 was better.

JD2 could have been MOM last week too. Superb performance.

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Re: Wales finally have strength in depth...so who actually starts at the RWC!?

Post by miaow on Sun 10 Mar 2019, 3:46 pm

maestegmafia wrote:Even better still though in my opinion with Owen Or Scott Williams at 12

Watkin's shown he doesn't have the power of Parkes. Nor does Scott Williams. What Parkes has done is, quite literally, replace Roberts' crashball game, with added finesse due to the way he enters and spins out of contact...but also with the added skills that Roberts were severely lacking in. Like basic passing.

Scott Williams is the best all-round centre other than JD2 but I'm not sure he's the best decision maker at international level. It's frustrating as he comes across as a natural leader but has never been trusted in that way for Wales - Gatland messed him around for years and, now, I'm not sure he has the quality experience at this level. Too many forced passes, or choosing to run into contact etc. - minor things that the coaches will hate. He's also lost a yard of pace now and I can see him missing out on the RWC squad if Wales go for 3 centres.

Watkin's the one for the future and it would be interesting to see how he develops if he gets a run of games without injury/at a functioning club team. But, at the moment, as long as Parkes' pace isn't exploited (not sure if the England game was a sign he's over the hill, or just a one off: never seem him look so slow before so hopefully the former) he's not going to replace him yet. Doesn't add the physicality Parkes does and that's what's so impressive about him/his biggest asset to Wales. Still a lot to 'learn' at test level in some ways, we think of Parkes as an established international but, in reality, he's still getting used to it so hopefully he can get slightly better with experience, and despite him not really pulling up trees, Watkin hasn't either in the chances he's been given.

You look at the best 6Ns teams - England have Tuilalgi/Te'o; Ireland have Aki -  and they're all playing a crashball player at 12. Parkes is comfortably Wales' best crashball 12. Sorted.


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Re: Wales finally have strength in depth...so who actually starts at the RWC!?

Post by maestegmafia on Sun 10 Mar 2019, 3:46 pm

mikey_dragon wrote:Or Owen Watkin at 12, has that x-factor that Scott Williams doesn't.

Yes, definitely a candidate, my preference is for a footballing inside centre like Owen Williams.

I don’t think Scott Williams has played badly, more that he hasn’t played due to injuries. When fit he has been in great form.

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Re: Wales finally have strength in depth...so who actually starts at the RWC!?

Post by mikey_dragon on Sun 10 Mar 2019, 3:55 pm

If you're playing Anscombe at 10 then another footballer at 12 makes sense, Anscombe doesn't kick out of hand very well. Owen Williams has slipped away. Patchell at 12?

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Re: Wales finally have strength in depth...so who actually starts at the RWC!?

Post by maestegmafia on Sun 10 Mar 2019, 4:11 pm

mikey_dragon wrote:If you're playing Anscombe at 10 then another footballer at 12 makes sense, Anscombe doesn't kick out of hand very well. Owen Williams has slipped away. Patchell at 12?

He was in great form at Gloucester playing outside Cipriani

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Re: Wales finally have strength in depth...so who actually starts at the RWC!?

Post by LondonTiger on Sun 10 Mar 2019, 4:24 pm

I have to disagree about Owen Williams form. He has been average at best this season, hence why he is not a regular starter. Wales have much better players.

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Re: Wales finally have strength in depth...so who actually starts at the RWC!?

Post by maestegmafia on Sun 10 Mar 2019, 4:28 pm

Be great to have Williams back at the Scarlets.

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Re: Wales finally have strength in depth...so who actually starts at the RWC!?

Post by miaow on Sun 10 Mar 2019, 4:33 pm

The days of having a second playmaker at 12 have gone. NZ pick SBW there. Nonu's trying to make a late charge as well. Even their better ball playing 12s - Goodhue, Crotty, Lienert-Brown etc. - are physically powerful and can truck it up as and when required. Can't get away with being weak at 12 - Patchell at 12 is obviously ridiculous, that's computer game stuff. Owen Williams didn't really impress there in the last AI game he played. As LT says he's not exactly pulling up trees in England. I'd pick Jack Dixon over either - and I think Gatland would too.

SA picked de Allende at 12 - another powerful player. Australia tried with a 2nd playmaker in Beale and Foley. Won 1/3 - against Italy - and looked poor.

There is a use for a 2nd playmaking force in a backline. But in the second-half, when the game is breaking up a bit. I'd say it's integral to find one considering Wales will use Biggar around the 60 minute mark from now on, taking away Anscombe and effecting going to 0 playmaking players. Ansombe showed why he's not a test 15 yesterday - as several other teams have shown as well, it's vital to have a specialist 15 in that position. Wouldn't want him going there unless in an emergency...although he does look better in attack when in the wider channels, not sure it's worth sacrificing that defensive quality/positional knowledge. And we have LW and LH - two good 15s with very different skillsets.

A creative 12 cannot be picked if it means sacrificing a power runner in that position. The starting 12 has to be powerful: Wales struggle for that and I'd prefer Scott Williams to Parkes overall but he's been injured and doesn't set a platform from set piece moves or short balls like Parkes does, even if he's better a breaking the line through space/scoring tries. You can't really argue with performances - potential is only useful if it's realised.

Watkin's the closest Wales come for a creative 12 kind of player...but even then I wouldn't call him a playmaker. Just someone who has good passing and kicking skills, who likes to run the ball. Would like to see him get game time in the summer and really flourish - didn't really happen in Italy and needs the minutes.

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Re: Wales finally have strength in depth...so who actually starts at the RWC!?

Post by Pie on Sun 10 Mar 2019, 7:43 pm

I am one who thinks Parkes should be dropped. Lets see what he does this weekend when the pressure is really on. Deserved MOM last week

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Re: Wales finally have strength in depth...so who actually starts at the RWC!?

Post by carpet baboon on Sun 10 Mar 2019, 8:19 pm

Pie wrote:I am one who thinks Parkes should be dropped. Lets see what he does this weekend when the pressure is really on. Deserved MOM last week

As an outsider I would rather be facing anscombe and Parkes, than Biggar and Williams/Watkins.
I think anscombe is a brilliant 15, but not a top class international 10, and I think Parkes is very good but not your best option at 12

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Re: Wales finally have strength in depth...so who actually starts at the RWC!?

Post by miaow on Sun 10 Mar 2019, 8:20 pm

Agree with that. There are question marks over him, no doubt. It's not a position of strength for Wales. But you also get the sense, as with Anscombe, the more...backward...Welsh fans will get on his case because a. they want a scapegoat and b. they dislike the fact he's not born and bred in Wales and so channel that dislike into hateful criticism.

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Re: Wales finally have strength in depth...so who actually starts at the RWC!?

Post by maestegmafia on Sun 10 Mar 2019, 8:27 pm

There are still patchell and Jarrod Evans in the running for the ten shirt post six nations.

With regards inside centre Parkes, Scott Williams, Owen Williams and Owen Watkins

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Re: Wales finally have strength in depth...so who actually starts at the RWC!?

Post by carpet baboon on Sun 10 Mar 2019, 8:30 pm

miaow wrote:Agree with that. There are question marks over him, no doubt. It's not a position of strength for Wales. But you also get the sense, as with Anscombe, the more...backward...Welsh fans will get on his case because a. they want a scapegoat and b. they dislike the fact he's not born and bred in Wales and so channel that dislike into hateful criticism.

Anscombe I rate extremely highly, it's just as a 15 not a 10, but when you have Williams and 1/2p I can see the logic of playing him at 10.
Parkes is a great player, but swap him for an inform Watkins or Williams, and your whole backline is just more dangerous.
And I'm with you on the simpler fans looking for an easy target to blame. "Local shop for local people" spring to mind

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Re: Wales finally have strength in depth...so who actually starts at the RWC!?

Post by miaow on Sun 10 Mar 2019, 8:31 pm

On a related point, what happened to the centre who plays for Leicester?

EDIT: Jack Roberts https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jack_Roberts_(rugby_union)

Apparently plays for the Blues! Who knew...

EDIT EDIT: Apparently he doesn't play for the Blues...

https://cardiffbluesblog.com/2018/07/18/injury-woes-continue-for-jack-roberts/

Wonder if he was being lined up for the RWC and, due to injury, Parkes snuck in ahead of him? Any Blues fans able to shed any light on this?

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Re: Wales finally have strength in depth...so who actually starts at the RWC!?

Post by miaow on Sun 10 Mar 2019, 8:37 pm

Also mentioned in that article is Harri Millard. And Owen Lane moving to 13. Of what I've seen of them, I'd keep Lane on the wing, personally, doesn't have the game to be a centre. But Millard looks like JD2's eventual successor. Someone a bit more in the Jonathan Joseph or Mark Bennett mould than a recent Welsh centre. Tricky and deceptive.


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Re: Wales finally have strength in depth...so who actually starts at the RWC!?

Post by miaow on Sun 10 Mar 2019, 8:46 pm

carpet baboon wrote:
miaow wrote:Agree with that. There are question marks over him, no doubt. It's not a position of strength for Wales. But you also get the sense, as with Anscombe, the more...backward...Welsh fans will get on his case because a. they want a scapegoat and b. they dislike the fact he's not born and bred in Wales and so channel that dislike into hateful criticism.

Anscombe I rate extremely highly, it's just as a 15 not a 10, but when you have Williams and 1/2p I can see the logic of playing him at 10.
Parkes is a great player, but swap him for an inform Watkins or Williams, and your whole backline is just more dangerous.
And I'm with you on the simpler fans looking for an easy target to blame. "Local shop for local people" spring to mind

I 100% agree that Anscombe looks great with ball in hand further back/in the back field/playing in the second wave of attack.

But a 15 has to be good defensively - Daly, Henshaw and Huget have found that out so far. Anscombe nearly did yesterday:

First incident: https://youtu.be/u60MtaEvaiE?t=1397

(Watch for 20 seconds - Anscombe fields kick, feeds Biggar, standing near to Biggar when Wales kick back - then look at his positioning when Russell kicks the ball. Not a 15)

Second incident: https://youtu.be/u60MtaEvaiE?t=2603

(Unlucky bounce? Yes. Is it substandard positioning and defending for a test 15? Also yes.)

Very lucky to get away with both situations here. Scotland were very, very poor in terms of converting chances yesterday. A better team would have taken the lead and forced Wales to try and take it back. But the main point- Anscombe's not a good enough 15. Not just positioning, either. Not fair to ask him to be the last line of defence.

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Re: Wales finally have strength in depth...so who actually starts at the RWC!?

Post by maestegmafia on Sun 10 Mar 2019, 9:27 pm

miaow wrote:Also mentioned in that article is Harri Millard. And Owen Lane moving to 13. Of what I've seen of them, I'd keep Lane on the wing, personally, doesn't have the game to be a centre. But Millard looks like JD2's eventual successor. Someone a bit more in the Jonathan Joseph or Mark Bennett mould than a recent Welsh centre. Tricky and deceptive.


Harri Millard looks a real talent, this RWC May be to early for him. Though if we suffer as many injuries as last time he may get a run out.

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Re: Wales finally have strength in depth...so who actually starts at the RWC!?

Post by miaow on Tue 12 Mar 2019, 8:25 am

Definitely should be challenging in 1-2 years time. Only seen him in fits and bursts, and think he's playin for the u20s this tournament, but looks like he has more about him than Tyler Morgan.

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Re: Wales finally have strength in depth...so who actually starts at the RWC!?

Post by miaow on Tue 12 Mar 2019, 10:52 am

With Wales now on a 13 game winning run, it's worth just having a look at Wales from the 'outside'.

Not pulling up trees, still too tentative in attack, but actually a lot more clinical in terms of scoring tries when they get field position and ball control. If the 4 disallowed tries they 'scored' against France and Italy had stood, they'd be a lot closer to securing the 6Ns outright.

However, the most intriguing thing for Wales is this winning run. Gatland's Wales has always been streaky when at its best i.e. when the get that much fabled 'momentum' from game to game, they've looked unstoppable. Think 2011 RWC (for a time), 2013, and of course 2008. But this feels different. Firstly, they often fell off quite dramatically after those streaks - 2008 saw them pumped away in South Africa, 2014 was a rough season post Lions (with the reserves losing out in Japan in the summer of 2013) and 2011 obviously ended with the semi final horror. If you discount the semi-final (which you shouldn't, the point is not taking chances/taking the step up beyond a 6Ns title) and include the 2012 Grand Slam, then Wales lost a series 3-0 out in Australia from winning positions, and lost games in the autumn to drop to 9th in the rankings. Shocker. Wales have neither been able to go on a streak as long as this current on, or play as 'dull' as this and still win - they haven't played brilliant rugby, the best they played with ball in hand was out in Argentina with the reserves. But they're still winning games.

If...IF...they beat Ireland, Wales will have beaten 7 of the top 10 teams in the world, having not played Fiji and NZ in that period (the other top 10 team being Wales). Italy and Tonga sit outside the top 10.

It isn't the most impressive winning streak imaginable. But there have been 2 wins against SA, 1 v Aus and 1 v Eng in there. Home advantage definitely key as well, but it's a sign that Wales' baseline isn't as poor as it used to be - again, as I said in the OP, I think competition and a lack of complacency is the reason for this.

No doubt Wales will lose 1 if not 2 or 3 of the warm up games. In some ways, this helps - if they do beat Ireland, it would take the pressure off from the media, going into a RWC and potentially breaking the winning streak record in the groups (they'd be on 17, 19 to break the record I believe) when the SOLE focus has to be on beating Australia to top the group, and doing whatever possible to beat Fiji as well. In the minds of the players, though, IF IF IF Wales beat Ireland, lose a few warm up games, the mindset will be that they've been undefeated in proper, competitive test matches for over 12 months. And if they beat Aus...well, that would surely give them huge confidence knowing the streak they have behind them.

https://www.world.rugby/rankings/mru?lang=en

http://www.rugbydata.com/wales/gamesplayed/between/2018/03/11/and/2018/11/24/

All getting ahead of ourselves there, really, but one eye STILL has to be on the RWC this campaign. It's where all roads meet and as great as a Grand Slam would be, Japan is still the main focus...if not quite this week.

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Re: Wales finally have strength in depth...so who actually starts at the RWC!?

Post by maestegmafia on Tue 12 Mar 2019, 11:11 am

I don’t disagree with you Miaow. There is very little interest in wales as a threat. Every Irishman I know is confident they’ll beat us this Saturday, nobody is predicting wales to top their group at the pool stage of the RWC.

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Re: Wales finally have strength in depth...so who actually starts at the RWC!?

Post by miaow on Tue 12 Mar 2019, 11:19 am

Australian teams are looking hot and cold in Super Rugby, but when they're hot they look very good. Quade Cooper and Genia back playing together at the Rebels.

Everything screams that Wales should be getting into Australia and finally battering them - not just beating them - in a competitive game that matters based on the two teams' fortunes in the last 2 years. But I have a sneaky feeling Australia will pull it out the bag for the Wales game, top the group, and make another semi or even a final (where they get hammered) having got the easier side of the draw.

Not a clue about this game to be honest. Might even be 'better' for the World Cup if Wales lose it - particularly if it's a case of Wales not finishing off chances. Force the coaches to accept there does need to be 'more' at times against certain teams. That said, I think the awareness is there; can't beat Australia without taking some risks. Wales were well on top in 2015. No excuse to have a repeat of that game - but, again, the tries scored against England and Scotland after 10+ phases are very, very encouraging that Wales are learning to build pressure in attack in a way Australia, at their best, are maybe the best team in the world at doing.

Bringing this back on topic to selection, the key areas will be lineout: so hookers, second rows and back rows. Big game for Beard, and a good chance for Ball to come on and make so amends after a...mixed...performance against Scotland. The Irish locks are on par with the English, maybe even better at the dark arts. Huge test.

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Re: Wales finally have strength in depth...so who actually starts at the RWC!?

Post by BigTrevsbigmac on Tue 12 Mar 2019, 12:24 pm

In assessing the truth of the OP, should the most recent performance using most ‘second string’ players ie. against Italy be dismissed?

The win was the most that could be taken from this game.

https://www.walesonline.co.uk/sport/rugby/rugby-news/italy-v-wales-player-ratings-15806205

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Re: Wales finally have strength in depth...so who actually starts at the RWC!?

Post by miaow on Tue 12 Mar 2019, 12:43 pm

What do you mean exactly/specifically?

The team Wales will pick against Ireland is missing a host of 1st choice or arguably 1st choice players: Faletau, Cory Hill, Shingler, Ellis Jenkins, Rhys Webb, Leigh Halfpenny, Scott Williams.

The strength in depth refers to the current 1st team. Particularly as many of them have also recently replaced the likes of Warburton, Charteris, Brad Davies, Jamie Roberts, Lydiate etc. to a combination of injury and retirement. They've stepped into the leadership gap well.

One game - a comfortable, if unimpressive game away from home in the 6Ns, which is never easy - doesn't chane that.

But be interested to hear your thoughts on what you meant? Do you disagree with the notion? Why?

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Re: Wales finally have strength in depth...so who actually starts at the RWC!?

Post by BigTrevsbigmac on Tue 12 Mar 2019, 12:54 pm

Well the general consensus on the Italy v Wales game was that the players that were given their chance for Wales failed to take it.
This was the most recent game giving a start to most players that were not likely starters.

That was my point.

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Re: Wales finally have strength in depth...so who actually starts at the RWC!?

Post by miaow on Tue 12 Mar 2019, 3:48 pm

Not so sure about that. Won the game without ever looking like losing. A number of players were making their first 6Ns starts, which will be great experience for the RWC and beyond. But even some, like Biggar and JD2, struggled despite their experience. Fairly typical considering the changes they made en masse - and as I said, some of those positions are down into the 5th and 6th choices. Great depth for Wales to have.

More a case of Wales 'doing enough' to get through that game when, clearly, all the focus was on training for the England fixture - a gamble that paid off in both games.

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Re: Wales finally have strength in depth...so who actually starts at the RWC!?

Post by mikey_dragon on Tue 12 Mar 2019, 6:53 pm

The team that faced Italy should have done a lot better based on their previous performances against Arg, Tonga, etc. Whilst the win is what mattered the most, it was a poor game and very difficult to watch, full of mistakes. Hopefully it was a one-off but saying that the first team seem to be making way too many errors.

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Re: Wales finally have strength in depth...so who actually starts at the RWC!?

Post by BigTrevsbigmac on Tue 12 Mar 2019, 9:27 pm

miaow wrote:Not so sure about that. Won the game without ever looking like losing. A number of players were making their first 6Ns starts, which will be great experience for the RWC and beyond. But even some, like Biggar and JD2, struggled despite their experience. Fairly typical considering the changes they made en masse - and as I said, some of those positions are down into the 5th and 6th choices. Great depth for Wales to have.

More a case of Wales 'doing enough' to get through that game when, clearly, all the focus was on training for the England fixture - a gamble that paid off in both games.

A win is a win but I agree with Mikey it was a rubbish game & very few players shone. It could so easily have backfired as Gatland admitted afterwards. I’m not sure on the 5th & 6th choices but as you say not even the first choices showed up.

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Re: Wales finally have strength in depth...so who actually starts at the RWC!?

Post by miaow on Tue 12 Mar 2019, 9:57 pm

Ok. Not sure the point you're making tbh.

One game, heavy rotation, away win in the 6Ns. Point is Wales still have better strength in depth than at any time in the pro era/maybe ever. No Welsh players have really 'shone', per se, this tournament - and yet they're still winning games with efficient, effective rugby. The Italy performance was like that, albeit at a lower standard than the other 3 games.

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Re: Wales finally have strength in depth...so who actually starts at the RWC!?

Post by The Oracle on Tue 12 Mar 2019, 10:27 pm

Yep, I agree. A few years back if we were missing a number of 1st choice players, and had a number of recent retirees/out with the old guard, we wouldn’t have been able to rotate as we had in Argentina and against Italy this 6N and against Tonga in the AIs and come away with wins. In fact, we probably wouldn’t have rotated at all so players would get less rest and some would get less exposure. So I agree with the OP that there is more depth there now than in the past. I think that’s all he’s saying. The 2nd or 3rd ‘wave’ of players waiting to fill in for injury and absence are of better quality than we’ve had in the past. The step down is not as big as previously. Gatland was loathe to drop any of his favourites previously, and copped a lot of flak from fans for this at times, but I think that was because he was not happy with the quality of the replacements so the likes of Roberts, Cuthbert, Lydiate, Adam Jones were picked perhaps when they were not really in form (and they fitted in with the game plan too I expect). Now Gatland seems happy to chuck in players with little experience - Dillon Lewis, Elliott Dee, Owen Watkin, Josh Adams, Adam Beard, Cory Hill - all recent examples and not just to cap ‘em as they’ve got a lot of game time, and they’ve worked out well. Maybe Gatland himself has developed the confidence to do this as a coach, but I think it’s more that he’s happy that those players are of sufficient quality to warrant inclusion compared to squads further back in his 10 year tenure (‘10 year’/‘tenure’ - haha, who knew!) so doesn’t have to rely on just 15-20 front liners come rain or shine.
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Re: Wales finally have strength in depth...so who actually starts at the RWC!?

Post by miaow on Wed 20 Mar 2019, 5:57 pm

Right, 6Ns went about as well as could be hoped for. Where does this leave the team and squad?

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Re: Wales finally have strength in depth...so who actually starts at the RWC!?

Post by miaow on Wed 20 Mar 2019, 8:40 pm

BACKS

15
- Liam Williams (started all games): 9/10. Great attacking threat v France before leaving field with injury. Aerial game superb v England and Ireland. No big mistakes. Just about perfect.

14
- George North (Fra, Eng, Sco, Ire): 7.5 Tricky tournament. Defensive lapse v Fra followed by 2 opportunist tries from good defensive chase. Injured v Ire early on. Not much chance to attack v Sco and Eng but great in the air v latter. Getting better all the time but more to come in attack.
- Jonah Holmes (Ita): 6. Didn't add much from the autumn but didn't take anything away either. Some awkward moments near tryline with ball in hand but very solid chasing back/defensively.

13
- Jon Davies (all, capt. v Ita): 8.5. One botched pass against Italy but otherwise solid in attack throughout. Some textbook outside breaks and a nice score v Scotland. Ridiculously good in defence, captaincy against Italy average but good experience for WC. Nice clearing kick v Ireland from goal-line.

12
- Hadleigh Parkes (all bar Ita): 8. Solidity personified. Physical strength v Sco and Ire immense. Try saving tackle on Stockdale makes the tired chases v Tuilagi and May make sense - not lack of outright pace, but simply shattered v Eng. Looking more like Parkes of 18 months ago.
- Owen Watkin(Ita, rep in all others): 6.5. Didn't have too much game time from the bench but didn't really stamp his authority in the Italy game either despite scoring a try. A solid 6 - closer to a 7 than a 5 - but no higher.

11
- Josh Adams (all): 9.5. Just about the perfect championship. Set up the first try v France. Scored decisive try v England. Made the crucial score by himself v Scotland. Exceptional under the high ball, very good kicking game (including improvised clearance from dead ball line v Ireland), and very solid in defence. One moment of stupidity/poor fortune with the trip on Earls, and more importantly a few mistakes in the second half v Scotland, tarnish what was otherwise a perfect tournament.

10
- Gareth Anscombe (all bar Ita): 8. Not the best kicking game v France but played his part in second-half revival. Decent against Italy, a few great touches v England (touchfinders excellent throughout tournament), ran backline very well v Sco and great at 15 v Ireland. Looking good controlling play in a second wave - rarely first receiver and looks much better for it. Wales looked more threatening with him in the team.
- Dan Biggar (start v Ita, rep for rest): 9. Despite a great tournament for Anscombe, Biggar had a better one. Two imperious performances v Ire and Eng from bench marred by an underwhelming game v Italy. Aerial, kicking, tackling game world class - tackle on Hastings v Sco was incredible.

9
- Gareth Davies (start v Eng, Sco, Ire, rep v Fra, Ita): 7.5. Reacted well to being dropped. Brought control to Fra game in the wet. Excellent v Eng, spot blitz and charging Farrell throughout crucial. Off the ball stuff v Eng helped turn the game and get crowd into it; petulant play off the ball had opposite effect. As well as he's played for Wales but a few stupid mistakes and poor box kicks bring his score down.
- Tomos Williams (start v Fra): 6.5. Much heralded after excellent autumn and backed up winning the 9 shirt with good try v France. Lacked control at times in tricky conditions. Injury robbed him of playing more than 53 minutes.
- Aled Davies (start v Ita, rep v Eng, Sco, Ire): 5.5. Poor kick out on full v Sco from bench, but otherwise solid against Eng and Sco in other 2 big games. Unremarkable v Italy; feeds 10 well but lacking control.

23
Hallam Amos (rep v Ita): 6 13 minutes v Italy. Hard to score.

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Re: Wales finally have strength in depth...so who actually starts at the RWC!?

Post by miaow on Wed 20 Mar 2019, 8:59 pm

FORWARDS

1
- Rob Evans : 8.5. Excellent tournament. Part of scrum that dominated most opposition, typically useful in the loose, and no stupid penalties. Really solid tournament.
- Nicky Smith 7.5. Very good off the bench against England. Good breakdown threat and did his part as a replacement.
- Wyn Jones 6.5. Didn't get too much game time but don't remember anything negative from him.

2
- Ken Owens 8. Excellent in the loose and undoubtedly one of the leaders of the team. Cannonball run helped set up Parkes' try v Ireland. Played his part in a poor lineout operation, so loses marks in what would other be a 9-9.5.
- Elliot Dee 7. Very good from the bench. Added intensity and pressure on the opposition whenever he came on. Like Ken, part of a poor lineout, even when starting v Italy.
- Ryan Elias 6. Didn't get much of a chance to shine.

3
- Tomas Francis 8.5. Really came of age this year. Didn't see too much of him with ball in hand but he remains a really solid defender, even when in the midfield. But him scrummaging was superb - took England and Ireland to the cleaners.
- Dillon Lewis 8. Similarly excellent 6Ns. Most pleasing thing will be he was solid in the scrum - physicality against England in the carry was very good.
- Samson Lee 6.5. Tricky tournament for Samson. Put under a bit of pressure against France and didn't play very much. Has lost the starting shirt and is now in danger of dropping out of the 23 due to Lewis' emergence as a viable scrummaging option.

4
- Adam Beard. 8. Bit of a mixed tournament. Sometimes a bit underpowered, sometimes disappointing at the lineout, but then shone in the final game v Ireland - carrying with power around the fringes, securing lineout ball, and disrupting opposition maul. Good experience but not the finished article at all yet.
- Cory Hill 9. Heroic performance v England and excellent try. Only started one game due to injury after Engl but it's enough to secure the shirt going forward. Reliable lineout ball.
- Jake Beard 7. Again, a mixed bag. Looks good and provides a platform but a bit sloppy at the lineout and v Ita in general. Also an awkward cameo v Sco involving knocking the ball on and ignoring an overlap (perhaps correctly) in quick succession. Lacking match fitness but looked good v Ire from the bench.

5
-AWJ (start all, capt., rep v Ita). 9. Player of the tournament but his stats won't reveal his true impact. Some issues at the lineout, and a careless penalty v Sco at the ruck. Nice handling out of the tackle all tournament and helped turn the game v Ita from the bench. Looking like a true captain and leader of the team.

6
- Josh Navidi (all, start @ 8 v Ita): 9. Excellent tournament. Has secured the 6 shirt. Powerful upright tackling in the tight v every opposition. No big mistakes, quietly did his job. Man of the match v Fra.
- Aaron Wainwright (start v Ita, rep for rest): 7. Decent from the bench. Put in a big shift in terms of tackles every time he played. Didn't really shine v Ita.

7
- Justin Tipuric (start all bar Ita). 8.5. Quietly excellent alongside Navidi. Again, nothing standout, but no mistakes, he slows down opposition ball/draws players into rucks, and ties the backs and forwards together very well. A quiet leader who's gone under the radar but was right up there for Wales.
- Thomas Young/Tom Jung/Tim Yan/Tom Fun etc. (start v Ita): 7. Nearly scored try on his debut and one of the better players on the pitch v Ita. Comfortable at this level - good over the ball, looks dangerous ball in hand. Good to see him against better opposition at some point.

8
- Ross Moriarty (start all, rep v Ita) 8.5. Another absolutely excellent campaign by a back rower. Right up there with Navidi and Tipuric in terms of impact. Has upped his carrying massively and is now more of a reliable gainline threat. Happy to hammer into contact rather than be the one doing the tackling - more draining, more dangerous, more likely to lose the ball, yet he's doing it well. Fielded restarts well throughout and apart from a lapse v Ire off the ball, discipline was great throughout.


Last edited by miaow on Sat 23 Mar 2019, 11:45 am; edited 1 time in total (Reason for editing : Forgot to actually update this...)

miaow

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Re: Wales finally have strength in depth...so who actually starts at the RWC!?

Post by Pie on Sat 23 Mar 2019, 9:26 am

Ok so now what...

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Re: Wales finally have strength in depth...so who actually starts at the RWC!?

Post by miaow on Sat 23 Mar 2019, 11:50 am

Winners
- Francis
- Navidi
- Moriarty
- Cory Hill
- Anscombe
- Adams
- Dillon Lewis

Most of these are understandable. Players have come in and done enough to keep the shirt for Japan. Moriarty probably the only one there who won't automatically make the 23 now due to Faletau/#20 option, but he probably will ahead of Wainwright. Won't get in ahead of Faletau but good to know he's a true 8 option if needed to play.

Losers
- Samson
- Shingler
- Ellis Jenkins
- Sam Warburton
- Aled Davies

Injuries have been costly to the first 3. Warburton's captaincy doesn't look quite as good as AWJ's - always felt a more natural fit for the team and although probably still not quite as good as Warburton at the ref management/decision making, he's improved from 2 years ago. Aled the only player really to not look up to it still. Everyone else looked solid enough.

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Re: Wales finally have strength in depth...so who actually starts at the RWC!?

Post by miaow on Sat 23 Mar 2019, 12:01 pm

Despite the back 3 options being really good this 6Ns - the main 4 of Liam, Adams, North, 1/2P are nailed on and will make up the 3 starting and 1 bench option - can't help but feel Gatland might regret not having a look at Owen Lane or Aled Summerhill in the autumn.

Watching them pick apart an admittedly dreadful Scarlets team last night was a sign that they do offer something. Not sure they're test level necessarily, but they could become it - and Gatland's good at taking raw talent and making it work for Wales i.e. Cuthbert.

Dislocated elbow for Navidi probably ends his domestic season now: https://twitter.com/CardiffRugbyWeb/status/1109211023649722368

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Re: Wales finally have strength in depth...so who actually starts at the RWC!?

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