The Welsh team to face Ireland was announced to ‘scathing review’ among Welsh rugby fans, following an unchanged 23 man squad. The same which saw Wales dismally fall to defeat against Scotland for the first time in ten years, two weeks ago.
Same Predictable Faces
Rob Howley has come under huge scrutiny for choosing an unchanged squad to face Ireland this Friday coming. There are several names that are missing from the Six Nations squad that could well have played at least some game time so far in this years Championship. Thomas Young, Steffan Evans, Olly Cracknell, Owen Williams, Rory Thornton, Aled Davies and Ashton Hewitt (see below picture) have all had good enough seasons to have warranted a look in, but have yet to see game time.
Italy seems like an ideal time for these names to see game time. Once the Scotland result was decided and Wales’ title campaign was over, there were two options:
- try and save face with the same players, but against two tough opponents this isn’t guaranteed
- to start a strong squad, but ease a few new names on to the bench for an injection of new flair and to gain them experience at the top level of International rugby.
Why Doesn’t Howley Risk Youth?
Howley may not be risking youth in fear of dropping to a world rank of ninth, which would see Wales hit another ‘group of death’ like the Welsh team did in the 2015 Rugby World Cup.
Defeat to both Ireland and France would see Wales lose those places, and have two of the top eight sides in the world, within their expected RWC pool.
However, the current experienced welsh team doesn’t look like winning these two games [realistically] so, why no shake it up a little.
That is not to say, that the men who run onto the Principality Stadium pitch are not world beaters. Alan Wynn Jones could again lead his men to victory, but that is now not the only objective. The opportunity is there, and this is why commentators and fans alike, question Wales management.
Negative Fan Reaction
Upon announcement of the squad the main fan backlash was in Wales’ lack of ambition. The youngsters being used for ‘tackle bags’ and ‘water boys’ instead of gaining experience, is also being prominently derided.
The main thing to take away from the Welsh team announcement is that whilst Howley says he ‘acts in Wales’ best interests’ is that most see his choices only to justify the selection that you ‘don’t turn into a bad team overnight’.
Many believe he does lack a fundamental skill for top level coaching; foresight. Wales should be looking toward the 2019 Rugby World Cup, and whilst many of Friday’s players will likely be in that squad, if they hold form and fitness, it’s an ideal time to add to our depth for then.
Rob Howley maybe looking at the ‘group of death’ scenario, but many players that lie in those 23 berths to face Ireland have had shocking games in the three Six Nations Championship matches played so far. Would a bit of youth over these ‘tried and tested’ players do Wales any bad? Probably not.
Of note, the #HowleyOut tweet moving around rugby circles sums up Wales supporters attitude right now on twitter. In a way, the clock is ticking for Howley (see main picture).
— Laurence Perks (@kneecapsruler) March 8, 2017
In looking at the same old boring squad by Wales, who are expected to grind out results, and then compare an Ireland side who have recently beaten the All Blacks–it will be a huge task. Wales have the home advantage and will be looking to get an early platform. But if the side make the same basic mistakes as they have done against, Italy, England and Scotland, then they will be punished.
Wales’ set pieces have been very touch-and-go throughout the 2017 Six Nations. They will have to stabilize these areas to defeat the Irish, who have a powerful front five and have strong ball carrier’s such as CJ Stander, to peel off those line-outs and scrums and cause havoc in the Welsh team midfield.
Wales must also turn their game plan around and ‘turn points into possession’. Wales must also get some attacking flair into their systems. The latter is certainly unlikely, with the current coaching structure and without new players coming into the squad to influence anything new.
Under the current structure and playing squad, fans might expect the game to go towards Ireland’s favour, but Wales will be looking to sneak a narrow defensive-based win.
At 8.05pm this Friday night, pride and the near future of Welsh rugby will again, be on the line.
WELSH TEAM TO FACE IRELAND
Halfpenny, North, Davies, S Williams, L Williams, Biggar, Webb, Evans, Owens, Francis, Ball, AW Jones (capt), Warburton, Tipuric, Moriaty.
Replacements;- Baldwin, Smith, Lee, Charteris, Faletau, G Davies, S Davies, Roberts.
“Main photo credit”