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Thursday, 8 November 2018

Wales want best of both worlds: talking points from Wales v Scotland

Written by @rhigarthjones

Under Warren Gatland, Wales’ game-plan has often been power-based. That brought success, especially in the 2012–2015 period but often left fans underwhelmed with the playing style. The international game has shifted since the last world cup (the ability to score 3+ tries is now almost mandatory) and Wales have recently shifted to a more open game too. Scotland, meanwhile, have been playing free-flowing rugby for some time now. So you’d be forgiven for thinking that this game would have featured some party rugby. Instead, it was astonishingly physical, with few free-flowing moves on display. All three of the games' tries came from displays of power: Scotland's from a driving maul and Wales' from a trademark George North burst and an equally-trademark Jonathan Davies handoff. Wales are clearly aspiring to have the best of both worlds.

Fly-half face-off
Both Gareth Anscombe and Adam Hastings were given the opportunity to stake their claim to be the starting 10 for their respective teams, although Anscombe arguably had the better chance to do so. He had a better game as well, setting up both tries and giving North an excellent chance to score early on. Hastings recovered well from a jittery start, however. He is unlikely to supplant Finn Russell based on this display but the experience will be useful and he remains very promising.

Breakdown battle
Wales have huge depth in the back-row. Injuries to James Davies, Taulupe Faletau, Ellis Jenkins, Josh Navidi, and Aaron Shingler would derail most other teams but they could still field an all-Lions back-row. On paper, the Scottish back-row looked more likely to cause havoc at the breakdown but Dan Lydiate and Justin Tipuric did excellent work at the ruck, ably assisted by Ken Owens and Dillon Lewis. Their success meant that the Scottish forwards struggled to give their backs the quick ball they need to fire.

Inspirational Doddie Weir
That both the SRU and WRU had to be shamed into making a donation to My Name'5 Doddie foundation after organising this tie to raise awareness could have left a bitter taste. The man himself, however, ensured the affair rose above that. He inaugurated the Doddie Weir Cup, beaming in one of his custom tartan suits as he held the cup by the two oversized "ears" that he had insisted on. His bravery, good spirits, and determination to help those who will follow him – with no hope of helping himself – has been clear since he announced the foundation and continues to impress.

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