Ireland need to target Phillips and threaten a counter
Delaying gratification is a real trial but what a treat I gave myself having kept the Wales v Australia autumn Test match under wraps until this week. Armed with the remote, I recalled John Maynard Keynes’ response to the accusation of changing his mind; “When my information changes, I change my mind. What do you do?”
Let’s start at the end where on 79 minutes and 33 seconds Kurtley Beale crossed the Welsh line with behemoth winger Alex Cuthbert failing to stop him. Up to that point Wales had outplayed Australia in almost every facet bar the lineout (which was terrible). In that moment the score went from 12-9 in Wales’ favour to 12-14, and Australia beating Wales four times in a row. Interestingly, at 184cm and just over 90kgs, Beale is the “same size” as our two starting wingers today. Beale did okay!
With the Welsh back three in mind there are two massive factors when defending. Firstly, tackle technique: Andrew Trimble is brilliant at the straight on hit, but before the tackle occurs, reading the ever changing environment of two v two that become two v ones very quickly is a more important skill, especially with the Welsh. The test for both wingers tomorrow, and where the world class ability of Brian O’Driscoll shines out, is judging when to step in and when to stay out. Here is where Trimble could have come unstuck, if he was playing.
As the match rolled on Wales looked good, even down 12 players as amongst others, Alan-Wyn Jones, Bradley Davies, Dan Lydiate, Adam Jones, George North and James Hook were unavailable.
At the World Cup, Sam Warburton was phenomenal at the breakdown but has waned over recent months and has been limited to under one turnover per match. That said, he has developed a very threatening ball rip technique, whereby he twice stripped the standing Australian ball-carrier in contact.
If Ireland have perfected the choke tackle, Wales are working a new technique by focusing on the point of the ball and rotating it violently from under the arm. There is another danger with Warburton loitering, especially as he allows his inside defence to make hits, freeing his feet position to pounce.
The danger is magnified as he’s often on the less protected open side.
The extraordinary width of Mike Phillips’ pass allows Wales to get the ball outside Jamie Roberts to their powerful back three. From touchline scrums this is devastating on defences as outhalf Dan Biggar stands miles away. On receipt he will skip a hard run from Roberts to hit Jonathan Davies, who is, within two passes, 35 metres from the scrum on the far side of the pitch.
Now the fullback, Leigh Halfpenny, has many options, especially if the scrum is deep enough, as Ireland’s back three will be covering the potential kick, causing Brian O’Driscoll headaches. Phillips’ power pass means an off-the-top lineout can come from the non-traditional front as he finds his 10 either way, affording Wales more options in attacking lineouts.