giovedì 21 febbraio 2013

6 Nations 2013 Know your enemy: Wales

Ospitiamo l'analisi di Woodster, uno degli autori del blog gallese The Coal Face, in vista del match di sabato all'Olimpico tra Italia - Galles. Enjoy!

Following the great Welsh win away in Paris on the 9th of February, the mood in Wales has certainly become a lot more optimistic as we contemplate our trip to Rome. After the Ireland defeat we were certainly very concerned about the prospect of playing the Azzurri; and even more so considering Italy had just beaten the French. 
I truly can’t wait for the game on Saturday and I think it’ll be a cracker. Not to patronise you guys, but Italy have really come on leaps and bounds and your victory against France shows that you are not just a 10-man rugby team and have the ability to play some expansive, exciting stuff. I think it will be an absorbing contest on Saturday, but we’ll certainly be aiming to perform an Italian job and come away with the ‘W’. 
I thought I’d give you guys a bit of a preview of the game from a Welsh perspective; where we will look to target you, our strengths and weaknesses and how I think the game might unfold. 

A year of woes in Welsh rugby
The recent difficulties in Welsh rugby have been well documented. We won the Grand Slam last year, but unfortunately we didn’t really kick on from there. With Warren Gatland unable to coach the side for much of the summer tour due to his injury, we came up short in a three match series against the Wallabies. While this was obviously disappointing, our performance in those three games was actually pretty good but unfortunately we narrowly failed to beat the Aussies in each game. A few individual errors were costly and we ended up being whitewashed which obviously didn’t exactly do a lot for our confidence. 
The confidence seemed to be at an all-time low and with Gatland officially starting his Lions sabbatical we had a catastrophic Autumn – losing all four of our games. The poor form of the national side was mirrored by the performance of our regions – we weren’t exactly pulling up trees in the Pro12 and none of our sides were able to progress past the group stages in the Heineken or Amlin cups.
So this was the situation as we entered this year’s Six Nations. Compounding the problem was the lack of form shown by our captain Sam Warburton, who had the Osprey’s openside Justin Tipuric breathing down his neck. Following a terrible first half against Ireland, we rallied in the second but by that point it was too late.
Following this series of events, the whole world seemed to be thinking, ‘Wales are on this run of poor form, they’re there for the taking’. Fortunately, we managed to grind out a gritty win against a disorganised French side, so things are certainly looking up. The confidence that that win has invested in our boys means that we are all of a sudden looking at challenging for the Six Nations title again, as opposed to worrying about the potential wooden spoon

So what sort of Wales will you be facing? 
You’re certainly going to be facing a much more rejuvenated and confident side than you would have been had we failed to beat France. When Wales managed to get 10 points up against France, the confidence levels of the boys were visibly higher and as a result we looked like a completely different side in the last 10 minutes in Paris. Our hope is that we can take that confidence and use it from the first whistle against you on Saturday.
In terms of gameplay, you pretty much know what you’re going to get from Wales. With Rob Howley choosing the name the same 15 that triumphed in Paris, Italy will be faced with a team looking to exert physical power. These days Wales aren’t exactly the most creative of teams – we look to use our very big backline to make inroads into your defence and suck your forwards in, in the hope that we can create mismatches and get in behind you. Wales look to play by building phases – you can expect to see Jamie Roberts, George North and Toby Faletau being used a lot on the crash ball in order to get over the gainline and set a target up for the forwards. 
It remains to be seen whether the current Welsh tactic will be tailored at all differently based on the fact that we’re playing you. My thoughts are that it’s unlikely. It is my hope that we’ve learnt from when we played you last year when we tried to spread the ball wide without first earning the right. I think we can expect to see a bit of an arm wrestle for the first 50 or 60 minutes, with the Welsh coaching team hoping that a combination of fresh legs off the bench and a tired Italian team will help them pull away in the last quarter. 

Where will Wales look to target Italy? 
The news has filtered in that your talisman Sergio Parisse has been banned and will miss the rest of the tournament. While there is a certain sense of relief associated with that announcement, I’ve got to be honest and say that I think it’s a real shame for the tournament. Parisse is one of the very best rugby players in the world and it’s a real delight watching him play. However, it should hopefully make our job a bit easier
Given that Parisse will be absent, Wales are likely to target your back row, which doesn’t have quite the same aura about it with Parisse not available. Wales will look to keep your back row busy by launching ball carriers down the 10-channel phase after phase. We’ll look to keep your back row busy and move the rest of the pack around and disrupt your structure in the hope that we can then get the ball to one of our strike runners who can exploit the extra space created by our drives. 
The Italian team has a lot less weaknesses than it has done it the past, but there are still certain players Wales will look to target. As I write Italy have not yet announced their starting 15, but if Orquera is retained at 10, I think there’s a very good chance that he’ll be targeted. He had a fantastic game against France, but seemed to struggle a bit against Scotland. He’ll be swarmed on by our back row at every opportunity while the Welsh forwards and Mike Phillips will look to get in his face and rattle him. I expect to see our big ball carriers aiming for Orquera in an effort to throw him off his game. 
Perhaps the Welsh jewel in the crown at the moment is our 7 Justin Tipuric, and I think that if he has a good game we’re likely to triumph. He’s fantastic over the ball and is a great link player. If Italy send players into contact in isolation then Tipuric will have a field day. 

Where can Italy target Wales?
While Wales’ lineout appears much improved with Hibbard at hooker, there are still question marks over the scrum. It’s fair to say that one of our prized assets Adam Jones struggled at scrum time in Paris conceding four penalties. Whether or not that this was merely down to the awful French pitch is anyone’s guess, but I imagine Italy will look to dominate when it comes to scrum. As we all know, scrum domination can be a vital feature; as if you’re able to control the scrum you are going to be controlling a lot of the possession. 
With Priestland injured, Dan Biggar has stepped into the breach at 10 and has performed quite well. However, he is still pretty green at international level and it would be prudent of the Italians to try and rough Dan up a bit and see whether they can throw him off his game. 10 is a key position, and if Italy succeeded in getting to Biggar, they would go a long way towards nullifying the threat of the Welsh backline. 
Wales employ the blitz defence, and while this obviously has numerous advantages, it can be exploited. In recent years, a Welsh tactic has been to send a couple of the backs flying up to hit players just as they receive the ball in an attempt to kill all the momentum out of a move. Jonathan Davies and Alex Cuthbert are perhaps the players who do this the most. However, this tactic relies on an expert reading of the play and if you’re able to use dummy runners and loop-arounds effectively enough as well as ensuring that your handling is of a high quality; this tactic can be exploited and can be a way of getting in behind the Welsh defence

How will the game unfold and who will win?
As I said, I think the game will be quite cagey for a while. Both teams are likely to be quite reticent about risking anything with so much at stake. Wales/Italy games are often renowned for a lot of kicking, and I think the first half may well be a bit of a kicking battle. 
Wales have got a very powerful bench and if the substitutes perform when they come on I think the likelihood is that Wales might just have too much for the Italians in the final quarter. Unless Wales are behind at the 60-minute mark, I think the chances are Wales will pull away towards the end of the game. I mean no disrespect to Italy, you’ve come an awful long way and these days it’s a pleasure to battle you, but I’m confident that our boys can do a job. If Wales make silly mistakes as they did against Ireland and end up behind at half time; it’s anyone’s game.
Whatever the result, I wish you guys all the best: Italy are probably my second team in the Six Nations and I really do want you to succeed. Just not against us on Saturday! Enjoy the game; I’ll be at home sipping a Peroni and cheering on our boys.

1 commento:

Abr ha detto...

Tnxs to Woodster, great broad an detaliled picture of the game.
We are fortunate to have some link like that with Tej Coal Face blog around Europe, that ahows how rugby comments and analysis could and should be done. IMHO.

On the matter I basically agree with the analysis; just be aware of your attacks on 10-channel, you look for Orquera (or Burton now) and you'll find MASI scaling up ...

In general we'd like the physiscal wrestle kind of a game and we should not fear to get dumped as time passes by. Ospreys checked that at their exepnse, last game against Benetton. As a matter of fact, the pack is Benetton's, reinforced by props.

I do agree Italy should target your lineouts (altough we do it rarely) and scrums, where er'd get a decent, expert referee lately (Poite).
The real goal though would be to gain control of the breakdown and the rest would follow on.
It will be a real power struggle.

Targeting Biggar? Mmmm... not so easy. I'd rather prefer to see our flankers to get under Mike Phillips' skin ...

I'd like the best team would NOT win this time ;)

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