Wales against Australia was always going to be a massive game at this Rugby World Cup but Fiji’s victory over Eddie Jones’ side has added extra significance to this Test match.
I’m confident Wales will beat Australia but they will need to control the game a damn sight better than they have so far. The first thing Warren Gatland needs his men to fix is their discipline while they also need to stick to the game-plan.
Sadly there was very little of either on display against Portugal. Against Fiji they gave away 17 penalties while they also conceded 11 against Portugal which is far too high.
The victory over Portugal was badly executed from start to finish and the game management was poor throughout. There was no control over what was happening and if there was we’d have won the game by half-time.
It wasn’t until the third minute of injury time that we actually scored our bonus-point try and that was after Portugal were reduced to 14 men. Our mistakes and ill-discipline allowed Portugal to stay in the game, and I say that without any disrespect intended to Portugal, who I believe really stepped up to the mark on the day. We could have also easily lost to Fiji at the death if Semi Radradra hadn’t knocked the ball on with the try line at his mercy.
We have a very good chance of knocking Australia out of the World Cup but have to show a lot more leadership on the field, while the game management needs to be spot on.
Wales need to be better at reading how the game develops in front of them and how it fits into the overall game plan. Against both Fiji and Portugal, there was a lack of control by the half-backs which contributed to two very unconvincing performances.
That lack of control was compounded by ill-discipline, unforced errors, and a lack of composure which meant we only functioned in fits and starts. In Jac Morgan we have a captain who is inexperienced at Test level, let alone at Rugby World Cup level where experience counts the most.
At the moment he is an excellent leading-by-example type of captain. He busts a gut every time he plays and Saturday was a good example where he came in at a moment’s notice and ended up winning the player of the match award.
But he needs the other leaders in the side to contribute where appropriate in order to point the team in the right direction. What Jac needs to be doing more of is reading the riot act to his teammates before it becomes too late.
Gatland’s selection for the Australia game will also be very interesting. Even though Australia came up short against Fiji, one area of strength for them is the lineout and it goes without saying they will target Wales in this department. The Wallabies stole a good few Fijian lineouts, while they were also solid on their own throw.
On the other hand Wales’ lineout faltered badly against Portugal. To lose four lineouts on our own throw and three scrums on our own put-in is awful against any opposition, let alone a tier two nation like Portugal. Dewi Lake is excellent around the park but I think Ryan Elias deserves to start ahead of Wales’ co-captain this Sunday.
Wales’ lineout was perfect against Fiji with Elias at hooker and we simply have to win our own ball if we are to beat Australia. The Portugal game was supposed to provide a whole host of players an opportunity to stake a claim for a place in the side to face Australia but most of them didn’t do themselves any favours.
I was really looking forward to seeing what the centre pairing of Johnny Williams and Mason Grady could do to put pressure on Nick Tompkins and George North. But because of errors, and in Williams’ case a yellow card, it didn’t materialise. However, I must say Christ Tshiunza did himself justice in the lineout and in general play. Our scrum will also need to be better next week because although Australia haven’t got a great scrum they will see it as a potential weakness that they can target.
I apologise for sounding negative but it does make the selection of the team to face Australia a damn sight easier. The shining lights against Portugal were Morgan, Louis Rees-Zammit and Taulupe Faletau, who stepped up to the mark before scoring our bonus-point try in injury time. Faletau did exceptionally well to track down Nicholas Martins to prevent an almost certain Portugal try.
Rio Dyer was the only other one who stood out, basically because he appeared to be trying. His opportunities were not that great because he seemed to be crowded whenever he had the ball but if he is to make the most of his ability he needs to be put into space.
But despite all the negativity I’m confident we will beat Australia provided we control our discipline, perform well at the set-piece and improve our game management.
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