Wales Autumn International Review: New Faces Offer Brighter Future

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CARDIFF, WALES - DECEMBER 02: Josh Navidi of Wales breaks with the ball during the rugby union international match between Wales and South Africa at the Principality Stadium on December 2, 2017 in Cardiff, Wales. (Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

Wales ended 2017 in seventh place in the World Rugby rankings, following two wins and two defeats in their Under Armour international series. Robert Rees takes a look at their campaign and gives us a Wales autumn international review.

Key Performances

Wales have targeted a more attacking style of rugby this autumn, but it hasn’t really payed off in terms of tries. Scoring only eight in their four games, they trailed all of their Six Nations counterparts.

Contrary to the scorelines there were definitely chances to score more, but the cutting edge in the final third was just not good enough yet again. Wales are trying to move with the times and become a better rounded side, but it needs more focus on why they stall.

Perhaps it’s something that the coaches need to review.

Australia was a game that a lot of people felt was winnable. Masses of handling and unforced errors, the latter mainly coming from restarts, cost Warren Gatland’s men time and again.

Knocking the ball on felt inevitable at times as Wales sought momentum with ball in hand. These errors cost them several chances.

The Georgia match is a hard one to analyse with such a varied squad from the norm. However it did show us that Robin McBryde needs to work with the forwards on scrummaging.

Read Robert’s report of Wales’ victory over Georgia can be read here.

New Zealand Best Performance Of The Autumn

The best performance of the International series came against the number one ranked team in the world. Sadly it wasn’t solid enough over the course of the game and New Zealand managed to halt several Welsh attacks and keep them firmly in the game.

Then came the 15 minute period where the All Blacks just pulled away and killed the game, especially with the interception try.

Reassuring Victory Over South Africa

The final game of the series came outside of the Test window and as a result Wales were missing all bar Taulupe Faletau of their English-based stars. Despite a long list of absentees, Wales clawed their way to victory.  This was their third victory in the last four meetings between the two sides.

Albeit against a South Africa side that are deep in transition mainly due to their political player quota.

Ending the series with two wins and two losses felt like the worst Wales could have come out with, following years of abject results under the current regime. Wales as a country will hope the new style follows through to Scotland in the Six Nations opener.

Wales Should Head Into Six Nations In A Positive Manner

Despite not gracing the field with lots of tries or a winning record, Wales can look brightly upon what lies ahead.

The coaching regime might be the same, but there are plenty of new faces amongst the camp. If they get more experience in the Six Nations then they’ll definitely be a team to watch for the 2019 Rugby World Cup.

This Autumn gave Warren Gatland something to build from when the team re-unite in February.

Star Performers

Wales took the opportunity to blood some new players and it paid off for some with several excellent performances from Elliot Dee and Alun Wyn Jones.

Owen Williams: Another new addition to the Wales squad, Williams was one of the main figureheads in Gatland’s plan to develop a more expansive gameplan. Whilst he had a few suspect moments in defence, he organised the backs solidly enough to get moves flowing, but they were shut down far too soon by handling errors.

Josh Navidi: Only playing host to one cap prior to the Autumn international series, the Cardiff Blues flanker was more than likely only called up due to the amount of injuries sustained by the usual flankers (At the time of selection Sam Warburton, Ellis Jenkins, James Davies, Ross Moriarty and Justin Tipuric were all either out or carrying knocks).

However, he proved his critics wrong displaying some truly outstanding performances that sees him take praise as the man of the series from many fans and pundits. Wales’ best carrying forward and a stalwart in the defensive shifts. 63 tackles attempted and only two missed proves his worth to the future Wales team.

Hallum Amos: Amos looked sharp and active during his autumn campaign, notching up two tries and an assist. It’s not the stats that tell the tale on how well he performed, but more so his efforts.

Amos looked to get the ball and attacked hard, breaking to gain line and getting stuck into support play too. Making key breaks to set up tries, he was involved in a lot of what was good about the Welsh attack.

Dan Biggar: The General in the Welsh attack. Really pursued a territory game throughout the autumn, but kicked only when necessary rather than for the sake of doing so. Wales dominated South Africa early on thanks to his up and under, and especially due to their quick line speed.

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