Where Do Wales Go From Here?
Following an abysmal performance by the Welsh, Scotland succeeded in recording their first win over their Celtic counterparts in 10 years, following a 29-13 win at Murrayfield.
There was a fine contrast in the performance of Rob Howley’s boys at Murrayfield to their performance against England. The team that came out against the Scottish certainly didn’t look like a team capable of beating England at all, despite how they played two weeks prior.
Rob Howley has once again come under fire, as have a number of player for their poor performances, such as George North. It seems the Welsh fans have carried on the trend of frustration via social media over their right wingers, following the battering Alex Cuthbert took on Twitter after the loss to England.
With it emerging that the kickers went against captain Alun Wyn Jones’ orders, it’s difficult to understand how this team had won the Six Nations in 2013. It’s clear that something needs to change in order to see the same success that was present only a few years ago. But where do Wales go from here?
The Welsh management are sadly – despite all the success they’ve achieved in the past – standing on thin ice. Although they’ve won three Six Nations championships during their 9 year career, it seems like a long road for them to get back to where they are. With Gatland taking up the Lions job, you’ve got to question his commitment to Wales. The other home nation coaches are staying put, unlike Gatland, in order to build for the World Cup. but this isn’t the case in Wales with Gatland and Rob Howley, who will be joining the Kiwi in New Zealand as Lions backs coach, despite the Welsh attack being poor.
If Wales want to succeed, and be some sort of threat by the 2019 World Cup in Japan, then they must bring in new faces. Someone such as Dai Young would be an ideal candidate, a man who’s improved Wasps massively since he took over. It would be interesting to see what the former Cardiff Blues coach would be able to do in charge of the national team.
Many players within Wales have been continuously neglected. The form that some players such as James Davies, Josh Navidi and Dan Evans over the year have certainly warranted a Wales call up, but sadly that’s not been the case. It’s been argued by the management that these players are solid regional players, but not good enough international players. It seems that didn’t apply to Taulupe Faletau, who’d only played a handful of games for the Newport Gwent Dragons prior to making his Wales debut, and shining in the 2011 World Cup. It seems it also didn’t apply to George North, who had only played 4 competitive games prior to his Wales debut. Although the following players may not necessarily be in the same light as North and Faletau, it’s unfair to say they haven’t deserved a call up as much as them.
‘Warrenball’, the so called style of play Wales followed did give them success in the early years, but sadly this has become far too predictable. Many teams are able to understand exactly what players like Jamie Roberts, Jonathan Davies and Leigh Halfpenny are capable of. Their attacking play is bland to say the least, and their performance against Scotland certainly showed that. Although Roberts has been a fantastic servant to Welsh rugby, he should have been dropped for Scott Williams long ago.
Even some potentially good changes that Gatland and co have brought in, such as Gatland Law, which only allows a certain amount of players playing their trade outside Wales be called up, have ended up being of almost no benefit. Jonathan Davies is the only key players to have returned to Wales, with Liam Williams off to England, Leigh Halfpenny looking like staying in France and George North signing a new contract and even Dan Biggar seems linked to a move to England, it seems that this has almost seen no benefit, and the foreign based players are willing to risk their place in their Welsh team for a bit of cash. This doesn’t seem to be a problem at all in England, and although you could argue that the Aviva Premiership is a better standard than the Pro12, this isn’t anywhere near as much of a problem in Ireland, who also have clubs that compete in the Pro12.
If the Welsh team want to salvage anything in this Six Nations campaign, it’s essential that they give the young talent a chance, who’ve shown magnificent form for their respective clubs this season. Steff Evans, Sam Davies and Owen Williams certainly deserve a chance to show what they’re made of, and offer something looking forward to the World Cup.
Howley must provide some sort of hope if he’d like to keep his job, and this starts with providing a chance for unproven players to show what they can do. If Wales do suffer against Ireland, there won’t be anywhere near as much bitterness and criticism towards the management if these star fringe players like Sam Davies are given a chance.