Here’s the very first guest article from Paul. It’s suitable for keen rugby fans, but don’t worry, a simplistic guide to the Six Nations rugby tournament will be coming this week- right in time for kick off.
The Six Nations is only four days away and the world cup is looming. All the home nations (plus France and Italy) are gearing up to get their campaigns off to a winning start and it’s their last chance to test players before jetting off to New Zealand in the Summer.
Wales are currently in a slump, and after the draw with Fiji, some serious questions are being asked about players and coaches. It’s crucial for Wales to start off with a win. They’re a team that thrives on momentum, beating England on the 5th February (Wales’ first Six Nations game) will give them bags of it.
The squad for this game were picked on Saturday by Warren Gatland (Wales’ coach), and there are a few surprises. Namely the exclusion of Martyn Williams and Dan Bigger (Wiki them). While I’m glad Bigger isn’t there, I do feel some reservations about Martyn Williams. He would not start because Sam Warburton is playing better, is faster and stronger; but he has such a wealth of experience that would be extremely useful to have around the squad. I suppose, however, it should be taken as a sign of strength that we can afford to not include such a player of his calibre.
Onto the starting fifteen- I feel that because we’re missing the likes of Gethin Jenkins and Adam Jones (both out because of injuries), it is especially important that our backs are sharp and scoring tries; something that they’ve been struggling to do recently. To remedy this I propose we start James Hook at 10. It’s a risk because he hasn’t played much there recently but the Hook/Steven Jones rotation we had during the 2008 six nations proved really effective. Also, with the return to fitness of Shane Williams and Leigh Halfpenny ,we’ve got two of our top finishers back on the wings. I’d keep Lee Byrne at fullback, due to a lack of options mainly. In my opinion he’s still a better option than Rhys Priestland (even though I support Scarlets), who will benefit massively from some time in the Welsh squad. Hopefully Byrne will recover some of the form that made him one of the best in the world 2 years ago. Centres pick themselves, Jamie Roberts and Jonathan Davies. Both are really big strong runners and are top players for their regions. Scrum half is a bit more difficult. Mike Philips hasn’t really performed recently, but would Dwayne Peel be a better option? I’m not so sure. I think I’ll leave that one up to Warren Gatland.
As for the forwards Sam Warburton and Dan Lydiate are surely the best bet for flankers and, Matthew Rees will captain from hookers, and Alyn Wyn Jones should accompany Bradley Davies in the second row. Number Eight could go either way between Andy Powell, Ryan Jones and Jonathan Thomas. I hear Powell is playing out of his skin at Wasps, but I think I’d keep him on the bench and bring him on in the final 20. I’d also put Thomas on the Bench, like Jones, he covers 4, 6 and 8, and would be a good option if somebody isn’t firing. That leaves Ryan Jones to start. He’s been playing well the last month and probably deserves to prove himself after a run of bad form. Last but not least, the props. As I mentioned, we’re in a bit of a crisis since we’re missing both Gethin Jenkins and Adam Jones are injured. They’ve both been the core of Wales’ team for a few seasons now and will not be easily replaced. Paul James will probably take over at lose head (left side of the scrum) while I’d expect Craig Mitchell to start at Tight head (right side) with John Yapp on the bench. It won’t be the strongest front row, not by a long shot but hopefully it’ll do the job.
If you fancy building your own team go to http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport1/hi/rugby_union/welsh/squad_selector/default.stm
It’s available for England, Scotland and Ireland as well so knock yourselves out.
Wales will play England in the Six Nations on Friday 5th Febraury in the Millenium Stadium (Cardiff). Coverage will be shown on BBC one from 7.30pm.
Good Luck Wales!
Until next time, Paul
If this all sounded like gibberish to you, don’t worry, Paul will be writing a post for new supporters of rugby before the Six Nations starts.