In the end, it again proved too big a step for a rejuvenated young Wales team. Despite all the efforts and optimism voiced by head coach Warren Gatland, victory once again eluded Wales at Twickenham. They may be young, but this Gatland class of 2024 is quickly learning the harsh realities of international rugby: Wales have now lost nine of their last 10 Six Nations matches.
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In this year’s tournament, the games against Scotland and England were two defeats out of two, with a total of just three points. It will hurt, especially as Wales’ Six Nations side could have won both matches. A new era may have dawned, but Twickenham’s old problems remain. It was England’s eighth consecutive home defeat to the Red Roses since 2015.
Wales lived up to their reputation as a slow starter as they conceded 27 points against Scotland in 43 minutes before fighting back to lose by a point. But Wales bucked that trend at Twickenham, where they led at half-time in this tournament for the first time since 1980.
However, the 14-5 lead was overturned with Wales scoring no points in the second half and conceding 11. The inexperienced side simply lacked the composure to seal victory. Wales showed naivety at key moments. The visitors had a two-man lead in the first half, with Ollie Chessum and Ethan Rootes picking up yellow cards, but Wales were unable to impose themselves.
Ioan Lloyd’s Debut:
Wales have been here before under Gatland at Twickenham, with the 2015 World Cup defeat to Australia and defeat to England ahead of last year’s global tournament in mind. On this occasion, midfielder Ioan Lloyd replaced the injured Sam Costelow and made his first international start wearing the iconic Wales number 10 shirt.
Wales Six Nations team are looking to replace both the retired Dan Biggar and the unavailable Gareth Anscombe, and there are few options. Lloyd, 22, is a different midfielder to Biggara, a more attacking option who has played a lot of senior rugby at full-back. He remains raw and Wales will have to be patient with him and Costelow.
Lloyd showed glimpses of his ability, including a stunning long pass in the second half to Cameron Winnett that almost led to a Rio Dyer try, and a brilliant attacking touch in the first half. There will be occasions that he will look back on with regret and realize how unforgiving life as a half-fly can be.
Wales’ Six Nations side had a penalty and were playing against 13 men when Maro Itoje caught Lloyd under his posts just after play restarted. The visitors missed the scrum and Ben Earl scored a try.
“Perhaps when England are down to 13 men you won’t be playing in your 22, Gatland said. It’s an opportunity to play in territory, get the ball there and put pressure on them. This is part of the learning process. I won’t be critical of individuals; I’ve been through this before with other teams.”
Six Nations – Kicking contest, aerial ability
With limited time against an aggressive England defence, Lloyd tried to make a mark with his kicking but his searching chips rarely hit the target. England midfielder George Ford had his own problems, including a controversial conversion attempt rejected by forwards Rio Dyer and Elliot Dee.
Ford stepped up when needed with his brilliant 50-22 strike, leading to pressure that saw Mason Grady shown a yellow card for deliberately kicking the ball away. Ford kicked the penalty to give England the lead for the first time in the 72nd minute as Wales chased the result with just 14 men. It was a game.
Not for the first time in recent matches against England, Wales also lost an aerial duel. England defender Freddie Steward often dominated these exchanges and was given more opportunities to shine.
England’s second-half strategy and dominance from set-pieces were key to the comeback. Wales conceded just four penalties against Scotland and, remarkably, conceded none in the first half at Twickenham.
However, the tide turned in the second half with Wales struggling from set-pieces after substitutions Elliot Dee and Keiron Assiratty. Hooker Dee backed up his performance superbly in the second half against Scotland. Rugby fans can book Wales Vs Italy Tickets on our website at exclusively discounted prices.
Tough prop Archie Griffin, 22, made his Wales debut from the bench after just five games for Bath. The visiting group found themselves on the wrong side of the referees in the scrum while the lineout began to malfunction as Ryan Elias struggled to find his players. Gatland explained why he made these changes to the front row.
“We thought playing Ryan with Archie would give us some experience and fresh legs, Gatland said. We probably lost a little bit of precision. I thought Elliott was outstanding and he was brilliant when he came on in the second half against Scotland last week.”
England number eight Earl named man of the match, but the award could have gone to Wales flanker Tommy Reffell. England manager Steve Borthwick knows the flanker-collector, having worked with him at Leicester. Reffell’s trademark turnovers were evident and he also showed off his attacking ability by playing a part in Alex Mann’s try.
“We know how good he is defensively but we want him to be more comfortable with the ball in his hands, Gatland said. He was more of an option, a constant threat. We saw this last week and again against England. I’m glad because he’s starting to find a good balance in his game.”
This could take it to the next level. He was outstanding and continued to play for 80 minutes. Reffell’s unflagging contribution has been bolstered by that of new Wales captain Dafydd Jenkins, who is growing in his role while striker Dyer is developing into an international striker.
The 21-year-old Winnett defender was again strong in his second cap and 17th professional game and also saved Elliot Daly’s attempt. His 22-year-old Cardiff teammate Mann had made just 11 senior appearances before making his Wales debut against Scotland. He has now managed two tries in two games after his first Test start.
Mann epitomized the brutal Welsh approach that had frustrated England for so long, but could not stop Earle’s frantic transition in his attempt. At the other end of the experience spectrum is George North, 31, who joined Wales’ exclusive club having made 50 appearances in the tournament. He joins Stephen Jones, Gethin Jenkins, Alun Wyn Jones and Martin Williams. In his 119th Wales game, North produced a short string of powerful bursts to prove he is Gatland’s most effective ball-carrier.
Patience needed with Dublin trip next
Despite all the positivity, Gatland asked for patience from the Welsh public after the defeat to England and he will need it. Wales’ Six Nations side have won just one game in three of their four previous Six Nations campaigns, with the exception of the 2021 triumph under Wayne Pivac.
They are still looking for a first win this time around but Dublin, where Wales travel next on February 24, is not the ideal place to stop their losing streak. As with Twickenham, Wales have not won at the Aviva Stadium in this tournament since 2012 and Ireland are a much more daunting prospect than Scotland or England. You can also read A review of past Guinness Six Nations matches of Wales Vs Italy.
If victory doesn’t come against the reigning champions – and even the most ardent Wales Six Nations team fan won’t be expecting victory in Ireland – it will have to materialize in the last two home matches against France and Italy, which will be played across six days in March.
Gatland is adamant that Wales will be a good team in the future. Now their resolve will sorely tested. Short term pain for long term gain. This has become the mantra of Welsh rugby.
Itoje says England have eyes on the prize after Wales victory in Six Nations
England have their sights set on the prize after continuing their winning start in the Six Nations and their bid for glory could be boosted by the timely return of Manu Tuilagi next week, according to Maro Itoje.
George Ford’s late penalty was enough to see England leapfrog Wales on Saturday and ensure they started the Championship with two wins for the first time since 2019, putting them second in the table behind Ireland.
England head to Murrayfield after the coming week and although they have won just one of their last six meetings with Scotland, Steve Borthwick is hoping to add a number of front-row players to his ranks, including Tuilagi.
It means we’re in the game, it means we’re in the tournament, Itoje said. This means we put ourselves in a positive position, which we may not have done in previous campaigns. This means we are aiming for the prize. It’s a different position for us and we have some momentum.
“If you look at our performances during the World Cup, we built throughout the tournament. I think we’re going to do the same thing in six countries. We’re going to build. We’re going to quietly go about our business and hopefully each game gets better and better and hopefully get the wins as best we can.”
Tuilagi is out with a groin injury picked up just before Christmas but will have another training session on Monday as he moves closer to returning to fitness. Ollie Lawrence is also hoping for a speedy return from a thigh injury, and in the pair’s absence England have so far lacked the carrying force in their narrow victories over Italy and Wales.
Manu’s Progress in Six Nations:
“[Manu] trains well and runs well, said Borthwick, who is also likely to have George Martin in his second row to face Scotland. We will gradually increase the volume of his running and there will be another training session on Monday. Every report I get so far is positive.”
Meanwhile, George Ford has warned that goalkeepers will have to “stand like statues” following the transfer controversy against Wales Six Nations team. Ford lined up his shot after Ben Earl’s try put England back 7-5 but appeared to take a step to his left, prompting Wales’ Rio Dyer to rush towards the ball before Elliot Dee cleared it off the tee.
Referee James Doleman ruled that Ford had begun his run-up, leaving the England midfielder dazed and unable to add extras to Earle’s try. The relevant law states that all players retire to their goal line and do not cross that line until the kicker has moved in any direction to begin his approach to the kick. When the kicker does so, he can attack or jump to prevent a goal being scored.
It was an incident similar to Cheslin Kolbe’s attack on Thomas Ramos during the World Cup, and although it didn’t end up costing England much, Ford said: It doesn’t make sense to me. If this kind of foot placement initiates a run-up, then I’m not too sure.
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