Autumn debrief: Faletau reputation and Amos is
STATISTICS tell you only so much, but every rugby coach uses them and Warren Gatland will be no different as he pores over the facts and figures before putting plans in place for the Six Nations.
Who were Wales’s best and worst performers during the autumn series that has just finished?
And what do the details tell us with selection for the Six Nations opener against Scotland in mind?
MARK ORDERS spent a morning number-crunching to see which players returned big numbers in the categories that counted.
HAVING Liam Williams available for just two matches did Wales no favours during November.
In 2016-17, Williams confirmed himself as Wales’s go-to break man by making 13 clean busts for the national team, more than anyone else.
He will surely come back into the mix for the Six Nations opener against Scotland, with Wales attempting to master the more expansive game they played this autumn.
Hallam Amos underlined his claim for a spot in that match by cutting the opposition defensive line twice as many times as anyone else over the past month. Hallam Amos 8 Steff Evans 4 Gareth Davies 3 Taulupe Faletau 3 Josh Navidi 3 Hadleigh Parkes 3 Scott Williams 3
STEFF Evans had a mixed campaign, but he did beat defenders, eight of them against Australia and 10 in total over his three outings.
Despite playing only twice, Liam Williams left eight would-be tacklers clutching thin air, while Amos also performed strongly. A nod to Leigh Halfpenny, too. He may not have managed a clean break during the campaign but he did find his way past seven defenders.
And Josh Navidi also showed up well when challenging the opposition defence. Steff Evans 10 Liam Williams 8 Hallam Amos 7 Leigh Halfpenny 7 Josh Navidi 7 Rhys Webb 6
Wales are trying to play with continuity and a key part of that depends on players having the skill and awareness to keep the ball alive.
Amos is again a star performer, topping the chart with Aaron Shingler, who improved as the campaign went on.
It was a notable effort from Rob Evans.
He may not have been anywhere near his best against South Africa, after picking up a bump against New Zealand, but he has the handling skills of a back and he was to the fore in his previous two outings. Hallam Amos 6 Aaron Shingler 6 Dan Biggar 4 Rob Evans 4 Taulupe Faletau 4 Cory Hill 4
A stand-out show from Josh Navidi saw him perform consistently strongly in defence.
There were double-figure tackle hauls from him in every game, even off the bench against Georgia (12).
In the other three matches, Navidi made 16 tackles or upwards every time he took the field.
Of course, the breakdown matters hugely and it will not have escaped Gatland’s attention that Wales had a tough afternoon there against South Africa, where Malcolm Marx ruled supreme. But Navidi had a fine campaign overall and it will be an interesting call between him and Justin Tipuric for the Scotland game.
Elsewhere, Dan Lydiate makes the top-six performers for Wales despite playing only a game and a bit.
A trademark show against Georgia propelled the Osprey into the mix, with Lydiate making 27 tackles, the best defensive display of the campaign. Josh Navidi 63 Taulupe Faletau 43 Cory Hill 42 Alun Wyn Jones 39 Aaron Shingler 34 Dan Lydiate 28 Kristian Dacey 28
A bad day in defence against New Zealand saw Steff Evans miss seven tackles.
That gruesome stat helped push him to the top of the leaderboard in this section.
Rob Evans’s tally went up during an off-key display against South Africa. Steff Evans 10 Rob Evans 5 Scott Williams 5 Kristian Dacey 3 Aled Davies 3 Aaron Shingler 3
NO TACKLES MISSED
SOME great work from those who appear in this section, especially the ones who played more than the odd game. SO let’s hear it for Taulupe Faletau, who made 43 tackles and nailed every one.
When the going got tough in the final stages against South Africa, the celebrated Test Lion stepped forward, helping to hold the Welsh defensive line together and finishing with a 15-0 defensive show. Jake Ball Adam Beard Leon Brown Alex Cuthbert Taulupe Faletau Tomas Francis Wyn Jones Jamie Roberts Nicky Smith Justin Tipuric Owen Watkin
KICKS OUT OF HAND
NOTHING too much to see here.
Wales used Dan Biggar as their main tactical kicker and he did the job particularly well against South Africa, tormenting an inept defence.
As second playmaker, Owen Williams made just three kicks out of hand. Dan Biggar 31 Gareth Davies 9 Aled Davies 9 Rhys Priestland 8 Rhys Patchell 7 Steff Evans 6
> Taulupe Faletau