Everything You Wanted To Know About Wales’ Season + probably a few things you didn’t – Part 1

walesResident BTL Wales Tragic yosoy does a Rowntree – anti-socially sits up late and alone on a Saturday night to forensically examine something rugby-related, in this case Wales’ topsy-turvy season:

Wales entered the 2013 Six Nations as the reigning champions, but on a run of eight consecutive losses.

They were also without head coach, Warren Gatland, swanning around on Lions duties. Taking control of the reins in his absence was Rob Howley: great player, nice enough bloke, but – without Gatland – would he be able to cut it as head honcho for the Six Nations?

The omens weren’t good.

A loss in the opening autumn fixture, against the streetwise Pumas, was a performance riddled with mixed messages, bizarre selections (Turnbull over Tipuric and Rees above Hibbard) and a couple of injuries to senior players.

strikeoneThe quad-annual defeat against Samoa the following week was met with complaints and wild-eyed accusations of all sorts from the Welsh media and Dai Public.

striketwoGatland once again took over for the defeat to the All Blacks –

strikethree– and yet another to the ever-durable Australians.

strikefourMmmmmm. So to the Six Nations.

Howley’s squad selection was pretty much on the ball: deadwood like McCusker was cut; a recall for Lee Byrne; a first call-up for the exciting Eli Walker, as well as a place for the usual suspects. And Andrew Coombs.

??????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????Coombs was an odd one. Here was a player who was late to the professional game, a sometime blindside flanker or occasional lock for the Dragons, an obvious hard worker, but not a player who had made even enough of an impression that his regional supporters were talking up his chances.

Olly Kohn, all 34 stone of him, was also a late addition to the squad after the power of Twitter revealed that, yes, his Nan had been to Porthcawl once.

pc-porthcawl40sSam Warburton retained the captaincy and, hence, his starting place over the highly-rated Tipuric for the opening match in Cardiff. Where it all went desperately wrong.

The first half performance was anaemic; one shorn of any test match intensity. The resulting comeback was little consolation to Welsh fans, serving only as a reminder of how we can play a bit, but how we’re also often wasteful – getting into good field position yet failing to score between the 58th and 75th minute.

Individually, it was a day to forget with only the ever-consistent Halfpenny and Faletau rising above the mediocre. Of bigger concern, perhaps, was how porous Wales’ defence had been.

Up to and including this match, in the 8 test matches since their Grandslam win versus France the previous season (and not including the 2nd XV v Barbarians chuckabout), they had conceded 201 points: an average of over 25 points per match. Far too high to be serious contenders in test match rugby.

The knives were out for each and every member of the coaching staff as much as they were for the players.

Et tu

“Et tu, Neil?”

Only three changes were made to the starting line up for the trip to Paris: the muscular Richard Hibbard (in his intentions and performance, if not his appearance), Justin Tipuric at openside and, about thirty minutes before the team was announced, Ryan Jones to the blindside and captaincy.

Paris isn’t the best place to go at the best of times, even if the French were also coming off a disappointing defeat in their opener to Italy.

zoot

“Zut alors! Fecking Eeetaly! Zank ‘eavens eet eez only zose Welsh losers next!”

In the first half, Wales managed to take il vent out of the French sails by being physical and organised in defence – the very same defence which had been so porous and passive in the past five matches. The only moments of danger came from Bastereaud running back against the grain on a couple of occasions and Huget ignoring arguably the best finisher to his right when only five metres from the line.

The second half continued in the same vein and Wales – led by Ryan Jones having one of those days where he’s a ball magnet – grew just enough to go into the final quarter tied at 6 – 6. Last season’s Six Nations success was, largely, due to the fact that Wales were able to score points and concede little late in the game. The same personnel managed to find the right amount of territory to put themselves in with every chance here.

With George North taking an inside ball off Dan Biggar, Wales managed to break the gain line, then after a couple of quick recycles and pick-and-go apiece from Ian Evans and Ken Owens, some room appeared on the left. Lloyd Williams’ pass landed about at the toes of Biggar who picked up, looked, then put in a deftly weighted chip over the onrushing French defence to sit up into the hands of North who kept his frame infield to dot down in the corner. A touchline conversion later and it was game over. A late Halfpenny penalty gave Wales their biggest win in Paris since 1975.

But it was a bit rubbish, wasn’t it? How bad were France?

xxx

Pamphlet left for French fans at Stade de France by  sympathetic Welsh fans who had walked in their shoes

But it was a win. Ryan Jones called it “a monkey off our backs.”

xx

“Feck. There goes the free ride. Taxi!”

In Part 2, coming soon to an AoD ATL near you, yosoy continues his mission to forensically out-Rowntree Rowntree, surely guaranteeing his spot as Lions forensic forwards coach

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437 Responses to Everything You Wanted To Know About Wales’ Season + probably a few things you didn’t – Part 1

  1. avsfan says:

    Suavo – where do you live now?

  2. ElSuavo says:

    Waitakere, mate. In the bush at the end of a dirt road. But working in Mt Wellington.

  3. ElSuavo says:

    When I say working, of course I mean reading the AoD and occasionally commenting. But I come here to get paid for doing so. A little bit of computer work may get in the way, but only if it is urgent.

  4. avsfan says:

    Grew up a Westie myself. Blockhouse Bay to be precise. Used to have summer hols at a bach in Huia, which in those days, was waaaay the hell out there. Still have friends who live up the Scenic Drive.

  5. ElSuavo says:

    My old man was a doctor in Blockhouse Bay – at the Glen Avon shops.
    I’m only an Aucklander because it’s where the work tends to be. Born & 1st 10 years in Scotland, secondary school on the Kapiti Coast, varsity in Dunedin, OE and eventually gravitated to Auckland on my return. Much prefer west Auckland to anywhere else round the city – people more genuine & down-to-earth.

  6. avsfan says:

    What was his surname? I went to Glen Avon primary.

  7. ElSuavo says:

    MacGibbon – christ, really outing myself here…

  8. firstdifference says:

    Try being an All Black from Auckland playing in Christchurch, especially if your mother christened you Carols Spencer. Or an Auckland based All Black coach who failed to win the World Cup.

    Or the waratahs. They have been regularly booed by their own fans over the last couple of seasons. Though they kind of deserved it.

  9. firstdifference says:

    Israel Folau topping super rugby for metres run. Averaging just over 10 metres a run so far. Not bad for his first season of rugby.

  10. avsfan says:

    @ Suavo – no recognition from me.

  11. therealbennyblanco says:

    Morning/evening all,

    Not long back from a weekend in Tokyo for the sevens, cracking weekend apart from being freezing cold. I also had the opportunity to heckle Paddy O’Brien. He walked past me and I shouted at him to sort the scrums out and he was so taken aback he came over for a chat. I tried to implore him to ban the hit, but he reckons that it’s all the fault of the players not wanting to play; he used the example of how at the U20 World Cup only 20% of scrums were a problem and he reckons that if players lose the hit, they just take it down. I pointed out that the logical end point of that would be to ban the hit, but he just shrugged and said he was concentrating on sevens now, and had had enough of it!

    Nice fella, but I’m a bit annoyed that after years and multiple posts moaning about the scrum my one chance to make a difference with a man who actually has a say came to nothing.

  12. firstdifference says:

    @benny

    I am sure it made a difference. It will nag at him.

  13. ElSuavo says:

    @Avs, he was there mid 70’s until 96. Bit of a long shot, really.

  14. tichtheid says:

    Morning/evening all.

    Flair, I’ve bookmarked that site, it looks really interesting.

    Benny, you did what you could, mate sounds like Paddy’s mind is already made up. He’s wrong though, it’s actually much more difficult to take a scrum down from a settled position than it is from a hit, it’s not impossible, and it’s easier for the loosehead, but it would be so obvious that the offender would get carded pretty sharpish if he did it more than once.

  15. deebee7 says:

    Morning all! Must be some pretty frightening hangovers in Ireland this morning. Loved the comment a couple of pages back from Monnem about losing a Kidney in Organ donor week….

    The Stormers/Crusaders thing is historical – because of apartheid, a lot of Coloured (and Black) South Africans supported the All Blacks against the Boks. They were seen as being a more model side, including players of colour (to use a horrible term!) as a natural part of their game. British sides were treated with less enthusiasm because of the perception – and reality – that successive British governments tolerated apartheid.

    It got a little complicated when Errol Tobias was selected to play for the Boks as the first Coloured player to start a Test. Others followed and today, obviously there are lots of black and coloured players in all the representative teams. It still, however, divides communities and families today. Trevor Manuel, a Coloured anti-apartheid activist and our ex-Finance Minister, famously supported the All Blacks at the ’95 Final when Madiba was wearing the iconic 6 jersey that Invictus managed to bespoil. It took him several more years to switch allegiance to the Boks and he was condemned and supported in his stance in equal vigour by respective factions.

    The vast majority of all South Africans today support the Boks, but there are ligering pockets of anti-establishment resistance who still think it’s fashionable to support the opposition.

  16. deebee7 says:

    @elSuavo – DB sounds like a lovely beer, to be honest.

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