People assume that Wales will improve from last week but I’m not so sure
Maybe they took their eye off the ball but bad performances are never good preparation
Everything we said to each other touched on not getting ahead of ourselves. And yet, maybe we did. Maybe that was partly to blame for Wales last Saturday.
That’s what makes New Zealand so impressive. The perform every day they go out. They have a certain standard that they don’t drop below, certain ways of performing that are acceptable to the group. And they seem to hit that height every time they go out. Those who don’t hit them disappear and someone comes in to take their place. Even on the days when they skirt close to the line, they usually find a way – just like they did against Ireland in November.
Wales didn’t do that last week. For whatever reason, they were below par. You could see that they were rusty and that they found Italy tough going. But I don’t buy the argument that it automatically means that they will turn it on against Ireland. Sport doesn’t work like that.
I actually think there’s a strong argument to be made that Wales aren’t as good as people assume. Obviously if they turn up, as they can, they’ll be hard to beat. They have huge power throughout their team but I actually think that all their power has made them a bit one-dimensional and predictable. They rely heavily on running over people and using the amount of sheer force they have. But there’s not a lot of variety there.
Excellent skill sets
They still have a lot of individual talent and they have guys with excellent skill sets but that power game will only bring you so far. Eventually, good coaches and good players will work you out. Ireland could obviously do with the likes of Seán O’Brien and Stephen Ferris in the side to counteract all that power but you have to go with what you have and in fairness I thought the back row were excellent against Scotland.
In a way, it might not be a bad idea for Ireland on Saturday to let Wales play their power game initially. Let them throw the ball around, let them think they can run the ball from their own 22. Sucker them into thinking they’re brilliant and then frustrate the hell out of them with good defence. Be patient and then go for the jugular when they get isolated in the wider channels.
The key for Ireland will be patience and discipline. They weren’t scintillating against Scotland but they didn’t need to be and I don’t think they really need to be against Wales either. They need to be efficient and accurate and if they do that, the consistency will follow.
If Joe Schmidt can bring that to Irish rugby, his time in charge will be a success. I would love to see them just keep to a certain standard and to get rid of the kind of mental baggage that has held us back over the years.