Wales must control Ireland in order to succeed against Ireland at the Aviva Stadium this Saturday writes Robert Rees. England dominated Wales for far too long and Warren Gatland’s men can’t fall into that trap for two rounds running.
Wales must control the kicking game
Wales loss to England involved many mistakes and back foot ball, losing far too much territory and possession through kicking the ball away. Mike Brown was allowed to have a field day and this can’t happen if Wales are to keep their title hopes alive by defeating Ireland.
Dan Biggar’s return to the match day squad will hopefully see a higher ball retention rate within the kicking game. Halfpenny also returns as does Liam Williams and whilst these pose a potent running threat, they also add to the kicking game.
Wales will hope that any ball kicked away by these three is either into space or into touch, rather than down the throat of the Irish back line.
Wales set piece a major target
The Welsh set piece hasn’t been badly beaten by either of the Scots or the English so far in this years Six Nations campaign. Therefore it makes sense to link it in with the territorial kicking game.
If Biggar/Halfpenny can find touch when necessary, Wales can look to utilise the lineout either as a driving maul or as a setup for dummy runners and to get the three quarter line running off of.
Wales would need quicker ball from the set piece than they have been getting and so Gareth Davies will have to be on his toes to avoid the experienced Irish back rowers getting turnovers.
Get the ball wide, but through phases
All too often Wales attack the opposition tryline and are left begging through a knock on or a ball flying into touch. More often than not through rushed passes that weren’t necessary.
Wales need to relax more on the ball and put phases together. Put the ball through the hands a bit more. Do this over 10-12 phases and will pressurise a defence a lot more than 3 phases and a quick pass missing out three attackers to the man outside.
If Wales manage this, with quicker ball from the breakdown and men running on to the ball rather than standing stationary when receiving the ball, points are more likely to come Wales way.
Wales can’t keep the ball in the breakdown
While Wales can’t rush the ball out wide, Gareth Davies isn’t going to have a lot of time to look around for options. Ireland’s back row is always one that slows ball down and creates turnovers. Something Wales can ill afford in their back yard.
If Davies can get the ball to Biggar to distribute on attack then Wales will be fine, even if Wales carry it hard. England countered this well with pillar players, but if Wales don’t allow them to set properly then there are yards to be made.
Wales must control the breakdown in order to do this, something they struggled to do against England, playing off back foot ball. Wales must attack off front foot ball in order to defeat Ireland.
Halfpenny, Biggar and Williams return and no place for Patchell
TEAM NEWS 🏴 Wales welcome back @lionsofficial trio Dan Biggar, Leigh Halfpenny and Liam Williams for #IREvWAL. Croeso nol i Lewod Halfpenny, Williams a Biggar i wynebu Iwerddon dydd Sadwrn. pic.twitter.com/MDgRyrrmGM
— Welsh Rugby Union 🏉 (@WelshRugbyUnion) 20 February 2018
Rhys Patchell and Seb Davies are the travelling reserves.
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