Tuesday, 10 February 2015

The hangover from hell

Well, I am just about recovered from that hangover from hell that is an English victory in the millenium stadium. Made worse by the fact that I had to endure the stuffing with my English girlfriend.

The game started well and, even though we scored a try off the back of a retreating scrum, the first 10 minutes were pretty promising.

Most of the match was Englands, though. They were playing better rugby and it was only a matter of time before we went behind and I was hopeful that Halfpenny's boot would keep us in touch but it was not to be and in the end the English team deserved the victory.

They were well up for it and we can take a bit of pride away in the fact that they did not win by that much and failed to score any points during Alex Cuthberts sin binning.

So, we played terribly and England were far superior, with a higher possession percentage but they only won by 5 points. Who knows what would have happened if we we firing on all cylinders.

I would have changed  few things if I was Gatland. Liam Williams should have stayed on when he replced North or should have at least replaced Cuthbert. His 10 minute spell performance was the best out of the whole team and he looked most dangerous. Gatlan needs to realise that the biggest players are not necessarily the best and that players who search for gaps instead of collisions are more likely to go through.

Who knows, maybe the main problem is Gatland's training regime, that is supposed to get the players peaking during the world cup. If this is the case and we win the world cup, then a poor six nations is not going to really bother me.

If Gatland is focusing on the RWC then he should be using some more fringe players.

I would include Liam Williams and Hallam Amos and the expense of Cuthert and North. Move Halfpenny to the wing? Probably, maybe it would force him to run more. With these three in the back we would have 3 players who are good at kicking and we need some good kicking because Biggar and Webb were kicking like donkeys. Biggar did have a big bandage on though and Webb was seriously under pressure.

For Scotland, this is my team:
Green = Same as EnglandRed = change. Blue = change of position
15. L.Williams Is on form and fierce at the moment. Played well for his 10 minute stint
14. L. Halfpenny Mr. reliable, another good player from Friday
13. S. Williams Another oon form player. Lets face it Davies was pretty annonymous Friday
12. J. Roberts Was quiet on friday but made several carries and tackled well, they need to bring him into the game more
11. H. Amos Has a spark that is missing, he had the Shane facotr and will run though holes, not through people and has the pace and form we need
10. D.Biggar was off game but i think he will bounce back
9. R.Webb also off form but has been playnig well and works well with Biggar
8. T. Falatau one of the few decent performances Friday
7. J.Tipuric Really replacing Lydiate, was an under par performance Friday and Tipuric needs more international game time
6. S. Warburton (c) It worked against England in 2013 and the two opensides would cause havoc at rucktime
5. L. Charteris Is impressive when fit and should help us in the line out, possible at scrum time too. I am torn between him and Jake Ball
4. AW. Jones Should really be the captain of the team and is always performing. a bit too annonymos last week though
3. S. Lee Give hiim more international game time, he is the future of the Welsh srum. Would have Adam Jones on the bench though
2. S. Baldwin Hibbard was poor and over threw when it mattered. Baldwin played against SA and the players who won that game should be rewarded
1. G.Jenkins Poor game Friday but that means he will play a blinder.

Standout player for Wales last week was Liam Williams, even though he only players 10 minutes.
Standout England player was J. Haskell, pretty ruthless in his ball carrying and ferocious in the takle.

No predictions for the Scotland game, partially because Gatland has yet to name his team and alsso because I probably jinxed the team last week, hoping for a big respnse though

Wednesday, 4 February 2015

Six nations 2015

So it is soon upon us and only 2 days till Wales face England at the Millenium stadium.

Gatland has shown his cards early, some say he is playing mind games but this is a bold move and one that shows faith in his selection and is going to give England something to think about.

The Wales team to face England is:

Leigh Halfpenny (Toulon), Alex Cuthbert (Cardiff Blues), Jonathan Davies (ASM Clermont Auvergne), Jamie Roberts (Racing Metro), George North (Northampton Saints), Dan Biggar (Ospreys), Rhys Webb (Ospreys), Gethin Jenkins (Cardiff Blues), Richard Hibbard (Gloucester), Samson Lee (Scarlets), Jake Ball (Scarlets), Alun Wyn Jones (Ospreys), Dan Lydiate (Ospreys), Sam Warburton (Cardiff Blues, CAPT), Taulupe Faletau (Newport Gwent Dragons).
Replacements: Scott Baldwin (Ospreys), Paul James (Bath Rugby), Aaron Jarvis (Ospreys), Luke Charteris (Racing Metro), Justin Tipuric (Ospreys), Mike Phillips (Racing Metro), Rhys Priestland (Scarlets), Liam Williams (Scarlets).
So it looks like a familiar squad. Most players are on form but Cuthbert and North really need to prove themselves and get some time with ball in hand. Liam Williams is probably unlucky to be on the bench having performed so well against south Africa and is currently playing well for the Scarlets, if he comes off the bench then he will get a rousing welcome and can be garenteed to put in some big tackles and will look to run with the ball in hand.

The England team to face Wales will be announced shortly today but I would imagine that we will see some new faces and combinations, due to injury and Lancaster must hope his team can gel before the match.

Because of home advantage, no injuries and familiarity in the Welsh squad, and disruption to the England team, through injury, I would expect a Welsh win. But anything can happen and the English side are still competitive, this just goes to show that they have strength in depth.

Sunday, 23 March 2014

My choice for squad of the six nations and who i think should by in the Wales squad.

15. Mike Brown, out classed the rest with his running and goalkeeping skills
14.Yohann Huget, lucky bounce, maybe, but he took his chances and looked very dagerous

13. Brian O'Driscoll, last tournament, still mixing it with the best at the end of his career

12.Jamie Roberts, the battering ram, really showed his best against France and Scotland

11. George North, with ball in hand he made metres and beat plenty of players

10. Rhy Priestland, only joking, im not that biased, i think this six nations may be the last chance he will be given in a while
10.Johnathan Sexton, his kicking voided any sort of Welsh attack

9. Danny Care, quick thinking and very annoying to play against

8. Taulupe Faletau, big ball carrier, one of the few outstanding Welsh players

7. Sam Warburton, showed real hunger, unfortunately has payed the price with a dislocated shoulder

6. Peter O'Mahonny, Irish forwards dominated this six nations

5. Courtney Lawes, lineout king and agile

4. Paul O'Connell, continues to inspire his team to great things and was instrumental in the rolling maul and at lineout

3. Mike Ross, another Ireland forward
2.Dylan Hartley, as much as i dont like him, you have to admit he had some great accuracy
1. Cian Healy, great ball carrier and useful in the scum and maul

Picking a Welsh squad at the moment is pretty tricky, so many tired looking players and a few injuries, I will freshen it up a bit and try and pick on current form, not on reputation:

15. James Hook, the squad needs more intelligent kickers and experience at the top level
14. Leigh halfpenny, he provides another kicking option and can be dangerous when running, his goal kicking accuracy requires him to be in the squad. Cuthbert has been anonymous this six nations.
13. Jonathan davies, coming back from injury but dangerous and quality.
12. Jamie Roberts, Wales main weapon in getting over the gainline.
11. George North, still young but showing he is class.
10. Dan Biggar, more consistant than Priestland and better at kicking
9. Mike Phillips, on the front foot he is still class, Webb is also showing potential.
8. Taulupe Falatau, not getting any competition for his jersey.
7. Sam Warburton, was on form this year. Close between him and Tipuric but, on form, Warburton is best.
6. Dan Lydiate, stuttered at first but is getting back to his best, finding his way in France too. The chop tackle is still his trademark.
5. Luke Charteris, if he can stop getting injured the he is a strong ball carrier and a weapon in the lineout.
4. Alun-Wyn Jones, my choice for captain and our most passionate player.
3. Adam Jones, has had some criticism but i think it is unwarrented.
2. Richard Hibbard, looked tired but is still putting his body on the line
1. Gethin Jenkins, unfairly treated by the ref against Englnd, he has still got it.

With injuries to HP, Warburton and Hibbard, i would replace them with Cuthbert, Tipuric and Owens for the South Africa tour.

Other inclusions that i would like to see on the tour are, Jordan Williams, preferably as a winger; Samson Lee, we hear so much about him but gatland doesnt seem too impressed; Owen Williams, impressive for Leicester and has routed Flood from 10; Rhys Patchell, we need to sort out who is best at 10 ad unfortunately neither Priestland of Biggar excite me at the moment; Lee Byrne, quality in France, experienced and has the 15 jersey at Clermont, a team that will be challenging for top spot in the Top14 and also for the H Cup.

As the world cup approaches i think we also need to see Adam Jones and Gethin Jenkins being used more as impact players, coming off the bench.

Liam Williams has not impressed me when he has come off the bench and looks better in the starting 15. He was great against Scotland but that was against 14 men. If Hook wasnt available he will be Wales future 15 and Gatland already sees him as Halfpeny's understudy.

March 2014

We have just finished the six nations.
We could have made history by being the first team in history to win three championships in a row, as it turns out, we finished 3rd, deservedly so.
Both England and Ireland played a better game, and like the southern hemisphere, they have figured out the best way to cope with and beat Warrenball.
Third place is disappointing, we have the players and a good coach. I want to see the team play with "plan B" in mind, it had been talked about for years and Gatland needs to pull something out of the bag. When Warrenball  is used effectively then it is a winning game plan. When it doesnt work, Gatland needs something else.
I think the team needs a minor adjustment. Most notable at 9 and 10. Preistland was so good in 2011 but he has only shown glimpses of that form, since 2012.
Why Hook isnt included more is bizzare, he is rarely used.
There is talk of a probables versus possibles game to help choose a team for the South African, summer tour. Hopefully this will show Gatland where everyone is.
Some uncapped players that interest me would be Owen Williams and Jordan Williams. Give these boys a go.

Walesonline  have chosen their two teams:

Warren Gatland's probables v possibles: We pick the two teams we'd like to see in trial match before South Africa

On the whole their choices are ok but other names that should be included are:

Rhys Patchell, Lee Byrne, Jordan Williams, Hallam Amos, Ken Owens and Samson Lee, to name a few.

I would like to see a change in gameplan, our backs are so talented, they need to play the game with ball in hand, run at the opposition, stop kicking the ball away, or at least have a better kick chase. Defending teams used to have the upper hand at the breakdown but roles are reversed now. The attacking team is now given more favour by the referee.
So stop kicking the ball to fullbacks, i either want to dee the ball going out or our player competing for it in the air.
Also, give the ball to our backs and have them terrorize the opposition, noone wants to have North or Roberts running down their channel.
Cuthbert is also great at running great lines and breaking tackles, let him run with ball, dont get him to pass to fullback or 10 so they can kick the ball to the opposition 15, who will run it back 20-30 yards at us.

South Africa is going to be a struggle and if we win one game then that will more than make up for a rubbish six nations campaign.
Can we do it? Anything is possible with our talent.

Injuries will force Gatlands hand:
Without key players Hibbard, Warbuton and Halfpenny.
I feel it is a blessing in disguise, freshen the team up and let someone else show what they can do.
Ken Owens will do well, as will Tipuric.
At 15 i think Gats will go with Liam Williams but Byne will be needed for experience against one of the best teams in the world. I want to see Jordan Williams used at 15 or 14, Cuthbert hasnt shone and Williams will add something that we are missing, something that another Williams used to provide...

In Gatland we trust

Lets get to the present.
In the past 7 years we have won 2 grandslams and 3 six nations championships and made it through to the 2011 world cup semi final, dumped out by Rolland and...

Warren Gatland has helped the Welsh rugby team regain its footing and injected the team with belief and power. He is now our longest serving coach and has been very successful.
In seven years we have seen some great talent in the Welsh squad.
I dont really want to pick my favourties because i would have to include most of the squad.
Success in the northern hemisphere hasnt traversed into success in the southern hemisphere.
During Gatlands term, we have only beaten Australia once.
We have been close on so many occasions, normally only missing out by one score and sometimes in the last minutes. I dont know why, but we are all hungry for a victory and, i feel a greater longing for victory against one of the big three over a six nations title.

2005 Grandslam and the rollercoaster ride before Gats

I said that the reemergence seemed to start in 1999 but the main year for us was 2005, the first grandslam in decades and some new names to get people talking.

The one notable game was against England, a game we were supposed to lose. Young talent starting to shine. The enigmatic man with the shaved brown legs and big silver boots.
That kick:

That tackle:

Wales played a fast flowing style,  lots of offloads, somewhat error strewn but exciting to watch.

A great grandslam but wasnt followed up and we would  have to wait another 3 years before Wales would truly fire again.

Players who impressed me during this period were:

Gareth Thomas, great captain and able to play in several positions.
Shane Williams, the small man, electrifying to watch.
Stephen Jones, another great 10.
Ryan Jones, went to my school, his first game against Scotland showed he was to become an important                     player.
Gethin Jenkins, a mobile prop, who enjoy putting boot to ball.
Tom Shanklin, exciting centre to watch and very reliable.
Martyn Willams, bossing the breakdown.

The reemergence of a rugby super power

So the 90s were a dark age for Welsh rugby and one best left at the back of the shelf. Granted, we had some great players and some amazing victories, but on the whole it was a period of shame.

1999 was a year that, i believe, saw something stirring.  That victory over England by one point. Scott Gibbs try and Neil Jenkins boot. It was the final game we played at Wembley and a rousing performance by the Stereophonics of a song that has become a favourite amongst Welsh fans for one day of the year:

This was the year that saw Wales host the world cup and gave the pupils of my school a day to remember, being given the day off to watch the opening ceremony, we had big screens set up in the school but i wasnt going to stick around, we watched it round my friends house.

It was a slow, stuttering start that saw us put in a decent performance in the 2003 world cup and win the 2005 grandslam but also saw us lose to Italy in the six nations and get dumped out of the 2007 world cup by Fiji in the group stages.