Dwyer's View: Wales Rule in Fantastic Six Nations Championship - Green and Gold Rugby
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Dwyer’s View: Wales Rule in Fantastic Six Nations Championship

Dwyer’s View: Wales Rule in Fantastic Six Nations Championship

Since time began, or so it seems, our northern hemisphere cousins have been extolling the qualities of the Six Nations tournament – even when it was the Four Nations, and then the Five Nations. No matter how the number of competing nations has grown, they remain correct. It is a great tournament – and this year it was superb.

The venues, the crowds, the passion and excitement, the sheer quality of the play – all were there for all to see. I loved it. Thanks to the worldwide television access, we can watch the games pretty much anywhere – well almost anywhere. I missed the England v France game whilst in Thailand conducting coaching camps and workshops for the Asia Centre Foundation, which cares for young, generally orphaned, victims of the horrendous tsunami a couple of years back.

Anyway, I certainly saw all of this weekend’s matches and they were great. The key match, of course, was Wales v. France in Cardiff at the Millennium Stadium. Wales were striving for the Championship and the Grand Slam, but France were there to upset them. Just a guess mind you, but I doubt that the Froggies would have been overjoyed to see Craig Joubert in charge, after the terrible deal he gave them in the RWC final last year. I certainly made a note of it – before the game began – on the top line of my jottings.

If we are to believe the commentary teams – and I do – there were more disappointed fans outside the stadium than the lucky 75,000 crammed inside, when the match began, with the roof open, soon after a deluge had made conditions treacherous. The decision by France, to go for an open roof, gave the clue that France would adopt a pragmatic ‘put them under pressure and see how their skills hold up’ approach and their selection of Beauxis, with his strong kicking game, confirmed this. In retrospect, they would have been better served with the more talented Trinh-Duc.

The game was an absorbing contest, giving the lie to the wet, slippery conditions, with Wales keen to keep the ball in hand – either wide or through their running forwards – and France generally favouring the high ball through Beauxis. However, when the opportunity presented itself, the French could suddenly lift the pace and attack with precision. On two such occasions, one in the first half when a short lineout throw saw Servat free down the right touch and Wales under real pressure, then in the second half, Lydiate claimed Harinordoquy, when the try seemed certain. But these breakouts, although potentially lethal, were too few and too far between. Wales, on the other hand, consistently threatened, just as they have for the last twelve months, and their vision, intent and skill – not to mention size and pace – have bought them their just reward.

It has occurred to me frequently in recent years, that perhaps the most important quality required of a top level coach, is his ability as a selector. Warren Gatland has introduced Warburton (youngest ever Six Nations captain), North, Cuthbert, Halfpenny (at fullback) – I could go on – after chopping and changing between lesser players for a couple of seasons. Likewise, Stuart Lancaster has been smart enough, and brave enough, to go for Farrell, Dickson, Morgan, Barritt, Botha – I could go on here also – after years of fiddling with captaincy and (again) lesser players, indeed some whose heads were considerably larger than their ability.

Phillipe St. Andre, also, has stabilised the unbelievable merry-go-round of the French fifteen. It was only a year or so ago that France omitted Harinordoquy,  Rougerie and Bonnaire from the one selection, and Picamoles has only just reappeared following a phenomenal tour of New Zealand about two or three years back – not the easiest place to play rugby either! All three of these coaches have shown this quality and their teams have performed accordingly very well. It’s not the only quality required, but it’s a vital one.

This match was indeed a fitting finale to a great championship. The defence from both teams was magnificent. France absorbed what appeared to be intolerable pressure in the opening quarter, to then bounce back and apply some of their own. The Welsh then took their turn to show just what they could do also. Both backrows were outstanding – Lydiate, Warburton and Faletau versus Dusautoir, Bonnaire and Harinordoquy. I’d walk over hot coals any day of the week to watch these trios in action again. (Whilst on the subject of defence, I thought that Fritz was great for France against the outstanding Roberts and Davies – more caps for him, please.)

The better team won and, indeed, they were the best team in the tournament, but not by a lot. England ran them very close and were, in my opinion, a bit unlucky on that day. Wales played rugby the way we’ve always known that they, as a nation, could, but in recent years rarely have. This could be the beginning of another golden era for them – and for us, the spectators.

I thought that the ref was very inconsistent. Sometimes – a couple with France hot on attack – it was a penalty for ‘not supporting your weight’, ‘going off your feet’ at the tackle. Other times it was not. Trinh-Duc was penalised for throwing the ball away, whilst in touch, to prevent a quick Welsh throw-in. I see it happen every week, often worse than this and not penalised – even with this same ref. Brian Moore, commentating (intelligently) on the England v. Ireland game, questioned the absence of a yellow card for Barritt for his deliberate playing of the ball, in an offside position, following a knock-on. How much more cynical, and damaging to France, was the same offence by Gethin Jenkins, with France storming on to the ball about 5 metres out from the try-line? But no yellow card here – Brian would have had apoplexy. Once again, I don’t think that the French would be happy with M. Joubert.

I said two weeks ago that the New Zealand Super Rugby teams were playing well, South African teams ok and Australian teams poorly. Nothing has changed. Our rugby, in general, lacks pace, precision and intensity. We lack also the courage ‘to risk failure in order to achieve success.’ This from a nation whose proud sporting traditions have been based on ‘’Ave a go, yer mug!’

  • Fitri

    Well said Bob. Indeed, the Northern Hemisphere teams are starting to tighten their boots. If the Wallabies keep playing their games at this rate, I’m afraid they will get bashing and humiliation comes next Tests’ window especially from Wales. On the positive notes, I love what Jake White has brought to the Brumbies. They were very impressive team with less impressive names. Reds is as usual, the guards of Aussie conference and the other three teams? a total humiliation especially Waratahs.

    • jay-c

      “Reds is as usual, the guards of Aussie conference ”
      ur joking right? i hate to point out that last years positive win/ loss ratio for the reds was probably the only one in the last 10 years for them…

      • BloodRed

        and I hate to point out that you are wrong. 2010 was 8-5 win loss to the Reds beating the Crusaders and defending champions the Bulls on the way.

        • bill

          They beat every semi finalist from 2010. And did so in style.

  • sir arthur higgins

    I think Lancaster has done a superb job. he has not acted as a steward coach, in fact he has actively sought to change the squad and pick the right combination of players with the right attitude. He has done a much better job than Johnson, who I think was in over his head.

    Gatland is a warrior poet. What a coach. We all know Wales should’ve made the world cup final and I personally see no reason why they wouldn’t have done as well as france in the final.

    With the right player selections, I think Australia can beat this full strength wales squad. but i think the chances of them clean sweeping them are zero. Australia will need to make some against the grain selections to win. I think we’ll see some shuffling in the front row and the second row in particular (hugh pyle to note)

    In the absence of Palu…..does Australia have a quality number 8?(cue the reds fans shouting samo or schatz) I am unconvinced they do. Mowen is certainly a talent, but is he a world beater?

    Again, the cenres for australia are left begging. Roberts and Halfpenny will shred nearly every pairing apart, ditto the french centres. Utterly unconvinced on Rob Horne, JOC would be shown up on defence by Roberts.

    At the moment, Tapuai is the best centre prospect for 13 and I will show my rebels bias and suggest an eye should be kept on inman to play at 12 in a counter role to Roberts with JOC at 10.

    I am in love with the Force back row and not afraid to admit it.

    • Serious?

      Since when has Palu been a quality Number 8? The man is a myth…

    • commonasmud

      Sir Arthur, I’m a Reds fan, but on current form I’m shouting “Mowen”. I think the RWC has been the making of him – he has lifted his game to another level. Maybe no barnstorming runs like Samo, but a lot more and higher quality “dirty work”. He compares well with Dallaglio I reckon, not just in terms of physical proportions – strong, increasingly aggressive at the physical contest, maybe not truly dynamic but a whole-hearted performer in the mold of Timmy Gavin. Not a bad balance in the Aussie backrow if you have Pocock, Mowen doing the majority of the heavy lifting and Higgers doing his alleged “seagulling” (although he’s also lifted his act elsewhere).

      I have absolute confidence that JOC would excel in 12. People seem to overlook the fact that JOC is almost identical in size to Timmy Horan, and I’d be certain JOC is stronger, faster, more agile and obviously a superior kicking game to Horan. I would have backed Horan to clean up Nonu, Roberts or any other 12 you care to mention, so why wouldn’t JOC give it a shake? Horne, on the other hand, is just an inferior (more fragile?) version of Roberts.

      As a Reds fan, I would be remiss not to give Taps a plug, but I’m also willing to see Inman get some run.

      • Robson

        Certainly agree with you about JOC. He is twice the defensive player now than he was two years ago. He learns fast and he is deceptively strong.

        • bill

          I like the welsh approach to rugby and I’ve heard a lot about Roberts but every time I’ve watched him I’ve been left wondering why. Taps is a much better 12. And I’d back Horne or O’Driscoll at 12 anyday in front of Roberts from what I’ve seen.

  • Patrick

    Your comment about St André stabilising the selections its certainly merited praise even if a blind monkey could have looked good after the bespectacled monkey of the last too-many years.

    However, for all that he seems to have got the call on Fritz right, I’m not at all sure that Grande would have suffered with bringing Fritz onto the bench and keeping the centres as were. Further, Beauxis was clearly a mistake, and made no sense given his relatively poor game against Ireland – Trinh-Duc offers them so much more!

    I certainly agree with the overall point about the English, French and Welsh though, they are all looking strong and the Welsh and French quite well-balanced outfits to boot, it’s very ominous for us!

    Finally it was great to see Italy get their win.

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  • JDog

    Sorry Bob, think that a lot of the Kiwi teams are flattering to deceive at the moment. In terms of conferences I would say that Kiwi and Saffa conferences have 3 teams in with a sniff, while Aussie conference has 1.

    I also think that the Kiwis are looking weaker the longer the competition goes on with their experienced players paying the price of last year’s monster World Cup winning season, whereas the Saffa conference looks stronger with the youngsters being blooded stepping up and surpassing the players they replaced.

    • daz

      The majority of young exciting talent, without doubt, appears to be coming from the Kiwi teams.

  • younggun

    Bob, you talked about being game to risk young talent, do you see young talent in the brumbies stocks at all?

  • Nick_Brisbane

    Bob, after what you have being seeing – how are our chances against the Lions?

  • commonasmud

    Bob, totally agree. I reckon the very long 2011 season and limited prep for this year has clearly had an effect, they have looked fatigued. I just wish our blokes could get 4 rounds of club rugby under their belts before getting in to S15, both for getting the “feel” for the game back, and for the benefit of their clubs. I think it’s no coincidence that it’s basically taken that many games for Genia, Higgers, JOC and the like to start showing us the goods.

    BUT, the 6N teams have been confronted with the same issue (long season), so what have they done differently?

  • Old Weary

    “Nothing has changed. Our rugby, in general, lacks pace, precision and intensity. We lack also the courage ‘to risk failure in order to achieve success.’ This from a nation whose proud sporting traditions have been based on ‘’Ave a go, yer mug!’”

    Not sure I agree with that? Did he miss the Reds game and running it from the 22, even somtimes to their peril. What about the Rebels – were not going to die wondering, and even the Force were having a go! Seems to be painting all teams with a big blue Tah brush…

  • NormanRalph

    I could have my FACTS completely wrong here, but I thought the wallabies beat the welsh the last two times they played??!

  • Bob – Loving the man-love you’re showing toward our Welsh brethren. I’m well within that camp. Backed them before the 6N…a great advertisement for rugby.

    But suggesting England were the next best made me choke on my crumpet…

    England were woeful in their first two games against the Scots and Italy, put on some decent play for half a game in their third (that was Wales’ worst game), then were solid (but not great) in their last two games.

    Your right, England have some great new stock, and will be a pain in the ass at the next world cup. But they struggle with consistency in the fundamentals…most notably something close to you heart, the catch-pass.

    Good on you for getting involved with the kids in Thailand BTW, it’s a great Foundation.
    I

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@bobdwyerrugby

If you don't know Bob Dwyer is the world cup winning coach of the 1991 Wallabies, then give yourself an uppercut. He did a load in between, but he now runs Bob Dwyer's Rugby Workshops, which you can read more about on his site.

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