>> Shane Wil­liams: New-style Wales ex­cite


CLOSE, but no cigar! So it’s an­other de­feat to Aus­tralia and the 13th in a row, but I was hugely en­cour­aged by this Wales dis­play. It was al­ways go­ing to take time for War­ren Gat­land’s side to change their at­tack­ing ap­proach, but I think some of the strides they’ve made in train­ing were ev­i­dent here.

At times, Wales were po­tent in at­tack and we have to take some pos­i­tives from this. I thought Owen Wil­liams and es­pe­cially St­ef­fan Evans went very well and Jonathan Davies, Gareth Davies and Dan Big­gar all had good games.

I called for pa­tience in the run-up to this match, but I have to ad­mit I was sur­prised by how quickly Wales seemed to click with their pass­ing game. We spread the ball wide, looked dan­ger­ous, and trou­bled what is widely seen as one of the best at­tack­ing sides in world rugby. I’m hugely ex­cited by that. Yes there were de­fen­sive is­sues which will have to be ad­dressed for the fu­ture, but I’m a glass-half-full kind of man and I’m go­ing to look at the pos­i­tives here. First, how good was St­ef­fan?

I didn’t want to put too much pres­sure on his young shoul­ders be­fore the game, but he was ex­cel­lent – solid in the air, worked well off his wing and what a fin­ish it was for his try.

It was a spe­cial team ef­fort and the try showed me that Wales do have the at­tack­ing abil­ity to take on the world’s best teams. First, it was a lovely break from Gareth. He was elec­tric and put Wales on the front foot with that run and from there, the pleas­ing thing for me was there was no panic.

We spread the ball back left and Owen and Dan did well to get the ball to Leigh Half­penny who de­liv­ered the try-scor­ing pass to St­ef­fan. It was no easy score, the young man bounc­ing his way to the line and his phys­i­cal­ity in that par­tic­u­lar play re­ally made me sit up. This guy is the real deal.

At that mo­ment I re­ally sensed some­thing spe­cial might hap­pen at Prin­ci­pal­ity Sta­dium and the at­mossive phere for the 80 min­utes was pretty elec­tric, de­spite a num­ber of fans ar­riv­ing late.

Sadly, Aus­tralia outscored us four tries to two and Wales weren’t quite at the races in de­fence – I’m sure that would have en­raged the watch­ing Shaun Ed­wards. But as much as it takes time for an at­tack­ing game to flour­ish, it’s the same with a de­fen­sive wall, es­pe­cially when you field so many new play­ers in key po­si­tions, like in­side cen­tre.

I thought Wil­liams did well at 12 and I liked the way he al­ways looked to give the ball width when he was handed pos­ses­sion. He and Big­gar looked pretty seam­less in the way they ex­changed as first and sec­ond re­ceiver and that bodes well for the fu­ture. Gat­land said he will make changes for the Ge­or­gia game, but I’m not sure that’s right.

If I was him, I’d try and keep as much of the same back division in place be­cause if they can show the sort of per­for­mance they did here on the back of just a few week’s train­ing to­gether, imag­ine what they can do

with seven more days to per­fect the lit­tle nu­ances of the game.

I’d give the pair an­other run at 10-12, but one man who we will most likely have to change is Jonathan Davies. His looked like a nasty an­kle in­jury and if it’s a long-term prob­lem, that could be a mas­sive blow to Wales for the rest of their au­tumn Tests.

Again, I thought he was su­perb against Aus­tralia. He made a sear­ing early break which al­ways gives a player con­fi­dence and af­ter that he was right back to the lev­els which made him such a star for the Lions against New Zealand in the sum­mer.

If Daviesn isn’t fit to face Ge­or­gia, War­ren faces a real se­lec­tion headache. At the mo­ment the man the rest of the boys call ‘Foxy’ is the best out­side cen­tre in the world, in my view.

Scott Wil­liams is the most likely op­tion to re­place him, de­spite not be­ing in the orig­i­nal squad. But Tyler Mor­gan is out in­jured and I think Owen Watkin’s more nat­u­ral po­si­tion is at 12, rather than 13, so for me, Scott on the ram­page out­side Dan and Owen would be a threat.

An­other thing I’d like to see against Ge­or­gia is for the ba­sics to be done just that lit­tle bit bet­ter. On Satur­day there were some dropped balls, knock-ons, a cou­ple of way­ward passes and other mo­ments of in­de­ci­sion.

Wales played well, much bet­ter than they have done in the past against Aus­tralia, and they only had a small prepa­ra­tion time to get things right.

Ge­or­gia showed against Canada they won’t be easy pushovers. They ham­mered them, if truth be told, and they’ll re­ally chal­lenge us on Satur­day. That’s why, like I’ve ar­gued with the back division, I’d keep re­place­ments to a min­i­mum to try make sure we don’t take a step back from the one we made in a for­ward di­rec­tion here.

We have to look at the long term here and that is the 2019 World Cup. Against an Aus­tralia side at the top of their game right now – they beat the All Blacks re­cently don’t for­get – we ran them very close with a newlook team and a new style of play. I’m not sure there are many out­fits in the world who would have been able to do that. Now, the next step is to try and get this young and ad­ven­tur­ous XV a win and I’m con­fi­dent we’ll do that against Ge­or­gia.

“If Wales keep to this script it is a pretty ex­cit­ing time to be a fan of the team. My mes­sage is stick with th­ese new young boys”

So long as Wales stick to their script – and I can’t see us chang­ing from it now un­der Gat­land – this is an ex­cit­ing time to be a fan of the team. My mes­sage to sup­port­ers is stick with th­ese young boys.

They have the tal­ent to go far and against the Wal­la­bies, they showed it. Now we can look for­ward.

Things don’t get any eas­ier with New Zealand and South Africa to come af­ter Ge­or­gia, but as an in­ter­na­tional rugby player you want to chal­lenge your­self against the best. In the meet­ing with Aus­tralia, Wales did that and nearly came out on top. In my view they’re re­ally not too far away.

New 10-12 axis: Owen Wil­liams and Dan Big­gar com­bine

Real deal: St­eff Evans took his try in great style

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