Warren Gatland’s men go into today’s test match with the All Blacks as underdogs and their opponents, strong favourites for the win. With Gatland and his players trying to develop their style and their attacking flair, here’s why Wales have got nothing to lose when they step on to the pitch this afternoon.
Once again, the men in red have scheduled the toughest autumn itinerary of any of the home nations. Playing the big three from the southern hemisphere and the upcoming Georgia was always going to be a challenge and many thought that two wins from four would be a decent return from the four-week period.
True, one of those wins would probably not have been predicted to be so close over the Georgians but what was clear was the consensus that they would struggle against Australia and lose to New Zealand.
Game Against Wallabies Close Encounter
Truth be told, that game against the Wallabies to kick things off was a close encounter and there were certainly positive signs of the type of game the welsh coaching staff are trying to implement. Ironically, it probably coincided with a few of their more reliable players experiencing off days. The likes of Liam Williams, Leigh Halfpenny (missed kicks) and even Taulupe Faletau ,made mistakes at crucial times but the Bath man particularly can be forgiven for having one bad day at the office considering the consistency of performance he usually brings.
Yet that is certainly one of the ingredients in the recipe for the chasing teams with restricted resources to be able to beat the bigger names on a regular basis. They need all their top players bringing their A-game and for every training ground pattern and rehearsed move to come off.
However, by signalling their intent to install a more expansive style of rugby, Wales have signalled a direction they are moving in towards the 2019 World Cup (that we know now will be held in France). That also means they are in a transition period towards being able to play that way comfortably in every game after being so used to playing a more direct style or ‘Warrenball’ for the last decade.
In addition, this time last year, World Cup seedings had not been settled and it was all about securing their place in a group as a top tier nation. That guided the way they approached those games under Rob Howley and ultimately, they achieved their goal.
No Benefit in Playing Tight Game
Therefore, there would be no benefit in playing a tight game, being in it up to the 60 minute marker and then falling away gallantly to ultimately lose by 20 points.
Rather they should be concentrating on executing their game plan and relishing the challenge of opening up the number one side in the world to see how far they can push things. Wales haven’t beaten the All Blacks since 1953 and I’m sure their fans would rather see the team continue to develop their new brand of playing style rather than repeat the blueprint of old.
They will also take huge encouragement from Scotland’s performance against the All Blacks at Murrayfield last weekend. The Scots played at a tempo which challenged the World Champions and maybe, just maybe, they are showing signs of fatigue at the end of a long season that included a drawn Lions series.
However, if by continuing to develop and focus on performance rather than outcome, it ultimately meant that Wales’ first victory for decades came over the Kiwis in the tournament across the channel two years from now, I’m sure to the thousands of dedicated supporters, it would taste all the sweeter!
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