Wales are going into the world cup with two wins out of three. Safe to say, this is a good result. It gives the team decent momentum before they head down south to face the physicality of South Africa, Samoa and Fiji. But what exactly can we take out of these warm ups? Where does Wales still need to improve? And what are they’re chances of success in New Zealand?
1) Some of Wales’s young players have really excelled over the last three weeks. The likes of North, Warburton are always improving and are showing that the 7 and 14 shirts are well and truly theirs. Also Preistland, Knoyle and Scott Williams have been particularly impressive. All of which have done a great job at breaking into the team and have really put their case forward to be part of the starting 15.
2) During their Poland camp, Wales have obviously been working on their fitness. This has really shown, particularly in the first two games against England. In the first game they were able to produce an impressive come back and in the second game their fitness was great.
1) The set piece has been a horror show. the scrum was a big problem against England, however it did look stronger when Adam Jones returned against Argentina. Adam proved he’s one of the few players that Wales simply can’t replace. If there’s an injury to the ‘hair bear’ then Wales’s scrum is seriously going to struggle. The lineout almost needs no mention. It has been an obvious area of concern, for whatever reason. The coaching staff will have to take the next few weeks to sort out the problem because without a working lineout, South Africa particularly will be ruthless.
2) Injuries have caused Wales some problems. They will be without Gethin Jenkins, Matthew Rees, Gavin Henson and Morgan Stoddart for the duration of the tournament. With injury worries for Steven Jones and Ryan Jones. The plus side of this is that it has given others a chance to shine reflecting a strength in depth that Wales have lacked for sometime.
3) Finally we have to question whether Wales will go into the tournament with the mental toughness needed to really challenge the best teams in the world. It has been a problem over the last two years that Wales have lacked a clinical edge that has allowed them to finish off teams when they are on top. Consistency has also been a problem. Wales have been notorious for finishing well after a quiet 60 or 70 minutes or for only being able to sustain a high level of rugby for a limit part of the game. The way the held out against England in the second match suggests that some of these problems have been addressed, however, the Argentina game highlighted some persistent problems of consistency. At the end of the day, however, these were warm up matches. You have to expect Wales to play at an even higher level come September, which i fully expect them to do.
WALES’ WORLD CUP CHANCES
So far I have been reluctant to predict how well Wales will do in the World Cup. I am, however, ready to bite the bullet. I think their performance will hinge on the first game against South Africa. If they can win that and top their group then I can see them building up momentum that could take them all the way. I realise that to beat South Africa is a very big ask, but recent results and Wales’ current form tell us that it’s definitely a realistic goal.
I’m going to take this opportunity to wish Wales all the best. It’s a very young and exciting team who have the potential to reach outstanding heights. I for one cannot wait to see them in action on the world stage.