England’s effective gameplan must leave Wales coach Warren Gatland pondering his options; Patrick Ward discusses.
What an efficient and professional performance that was from England. From being ten points down within the opening ten minutes to restricting a normally potent Welsh side to just two penalties for the final 70 minutes, it was a display of supreme discipline from Stuart Lancaster’s men.
One must tip their hat to the English coach as it was obvious that he came with a clear game plan and his charges were able to execute it to the full following their initial early blip. It is a brilliant start for the English to the championship, but the victory has greater implications in the larger scheme of things.
Lancaster mapped out the perfect way to beat Wales. Through brawn and brilliant defensive organisation, England completely nullified the Welsh attack.
Conor O’Shea remarked towards the end of the game in his commentary that Wales tried all night to score from inside their own half.
Even in the final three minutes, rather than trying to gain field position by kicking up field they opted to play the ball through the hands and chalk down phase after phase of energy sapping play.
Wales couldn’t break the gain line because England set out looking to push their defensive line up and stop their opponent’s big ball carriers at source before they could build up a head of steam.
Every time the quartet of Davies, Roberts, Cuthbert or North received the ball in midfield they were met by two Englishmen immediately. What England also managed to do was slow down the ball from leaving the ruck on the Welsh side by utilising the second tackler as the first hand to disrupt the ruck.
England managed to keep this intensity up throughout the match and Wales had no answer. It shows that Warren Gatland is devoid of a plan B. The Kiwi should be concerned by his sides lack of ability to mix things up around the pitch. Dan Biggar’s kicking game from open play is one of his major assets so it would have made sense to kick more often in search of territory.
Jamie Roberts put in yet another near anonymous performance in a Welsh jersey. Roberts has not been the same force he was in the 2011 World Cup for well over a year now. It is obvious that he has been found out and teams know how to counteract him.
He does not have the sufficient passing skills or the footwork to change his game to being more than just a crash ball carrier. Teams like New Zealand and South Africa will easily nullify Roberts at the World Cup.
Gatland must look at how he can re-shuffle his back line to find a place for Liam Williams instead of the Racing Metro centre who is just too one dimensional.
In comparison to England’s centre partnership of Luther Burrell and Jonathan Joseph they showed a fine mixture of both spreading the play and breaking tackles to give England varying points of attack.
It must be said that the Welsh pack failed to provide a decent platform for their backs to attack. Samson Lee blew hot and cold in the scrum, while the experienced pairing of Jake Ball and Alun Wyn Jones were thoroughly dominated in the lineout by Dave Attwood and George Kruis.
Attwood was the best player on the park and had Nick Easter not clashed with Dan Biggar minutes from the end, the Bath second row would have went over for a deserved try.
It will be interesting to see whether or not England will use the same tactics against Ireland in the Aviva Stadium in two weeks time.
Patrick Ward, Pundit Arena