Wales’ debate on the fly and the half has been pretty boring by Welsh rugby standards since 2019.
The usual discourse reserved for who should be starting No. 10 has stagnated considerably. Right now, it’s Dan Biggar’s jersey, just like the way Wayne Pivac took over. The fact that he is captain again only reinforces this theory.
Rhyse Patchell’s placement this summer – half the Scarlets are back in the Wales team for the first time since autumn 2020 – doesn’t signal that a new battle for Crown 10 is approaching, but if things go well they will try their first start in the Welsh jersey since the match for bronze against New Zealand at the 2019 World Cup.
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For the 29-year-old player, it was a patient waiting game, which will be especially happy to return to the Test competition after several challenging times.
“He’s had some hard years after the World Cup,” said Dwayne Peel, his Scarlets coach. “He was in and outside the line with injuries. It was hard. He had a year up and down with injuries this year as well. But when he was available, he was good on the field. Having him in the group is a big bonus for us. He will be good. His body. “It’s good. He’s looking forward to it. It’s great for him to put some demons in bed with his injuries.”
Of course, this is not the case at all, as Patchell limped against the Stormers last Saturday with a hamstring injury. He was not released from the Wales cadre. Instead, he will be closely monitored by the Welsh medical team.
After Pivac selected the man who led his Scarlets team to the PRO12 2017 title to face South Africa in July, he said that after showing enough on the court, “it is now his resilience that will be tested in training ’. Now we’ll have to wait and see if Patchell gets this chance at all.
The fact that he and his colleague Gareth Anscombe can cover the outermost defender, with Liam Williams being the only No. 15 specialist on the team, is just one of the reasons why Pivac will want to keep Patchell on his team. But there is also a feeling that his game could suit the style of rugby Pivac and attack coach Stephen Jones, although the chances of him usurping Biggar seem a little long at the moment.
The Welsh attack has been trying to make a big impact recently, with this year’s Six Nations being the lowest point. The first domestic defeat with Italy was preceded by the first hopeless domestic match of six nations in 13 years.
Wales wants to use a 1-3-2-2 formation and play with a “no numbers” policy, which means pushing the ball wide early and often, with the outside back and strikers intervening at the first receiver to make things easier.
But since the forward modules are rarely connected and the speed of the ball is desperately slow, things just don’t work as they should. Instead, Wales is stuck in the game board, where half of the flight remains the focal point of phase after phase, even as the possibilities around it disappear.
Where Scarlets and Patchell had some success at home and in Europe a few years ago, they were relocating their creator to achieve opportunities in other parts of the field. Patchell, like 10, is proficient in the basics you would expect from a flying half.
Big boot, beautiful views and passing, plus the ability to reveal a gap either for his own solid running or for the possibility of passing outside of it. How often have we seen Wales lately challenge defenses with flat passing options like this? The answer, unfortunately, is rare. But what really sets Patchella apart is how she places on wider channels.
It’s a desire to stand away from the first receiver when the moment requires it, as well as his eye for the gap on the outside, which helps to instill the all-court game that Pivac wants. By shifting his attention from him, he forces teammates to step up as distributors and players with the ball, while opening up opportunities elsewhere on the field.
We’ve seen it over the years for Scarlets and, when he ran briefly in Jersey 10 in 2018, for Wales. Patchell would be loitering around 13 channels, forcing the midsection or back three to rise as an opportunity to create a game. Once the ball reaches it in this wider area, it has the ability to pass and run and create opportunities.
He won’t get the ball here, but if the Scarlets got deeper into Patchell in that fourth serve, then he would have a chance to slip it out to two players outside.
It also has the ability to penetrate wide channels. Ryan Conberer’s hat-trick against the Ospreys recently came from Patchell, who ran a playoff loop against Johnny Williams, who pushed him out.
We’ve seen Wales try to do things like that, with Biggar taking the ball – which is an obvious buzzing expression in Jones’s practice – in games made in a loop or as a third receiver, but it always looks like Wales’ stopped attack pulled back. to take the ball at the first receiver again and again.
There is a feeling that Biggar has such an effect on Welsh offensive patterns that he cannot afford to die on stage, so to speak. They have to stay alive, avoid contact and be there for the next game.
But Patchell doesn’t worry too much about it. He will actively take the ball a little wider and look for an outer gap or weak shoulder where he can go. The best attacking halves can drift diagonally while remaining square, attracting defenders while preventing those in front from bouncing.
This may be in terms of distribution, an attempt to slip the player into the gap left by the biting defender, or it may be like a tough threat itself. In the example below, Patchell takes the ball quite wide, sucks in one defender, and at the same time remains a threat to the internal defense that they cannot pass. Maybe Pivac and Jones need it right now, especially against the Springbok.
Last summer, we saw the Lions, with Biggar at 10, fighting to smash the world champions with a fly half that mostly played a percentage. True, Warren Gatland’s game was conservative, but Biggar had five starts against South Africa since 2019, and all five were matches in which there were few opportunities to score.
“I thought he was good at what he did,” former Springbok Joel Stransky told Wales Online. “I don’t think the Lions played the right tactics to beat us in the second Test. I thought they were lucky in the first Test to beat us when we dropped out of Covid and the lack of wrestling practice.”
“If you want to beat ‘Boky, you can’t play the standard game. You have to fight hard, compete in analysis and passing and stand on your own. But you have to have something in’ Boks. I don’t think the Lions had it. I don’t think they made their game. ‘ so to be a little special. I think they tried to win by beating ‘Boks in their own game and I don’t think there would be a team that can do that. “
You would think that Wales under Pivac would not try to beat ‘Boks in the same way as Gatland, but the autumn defeat with South Africa largely refuted the scenario. Hold on tight, kick the competition and try to take a chance when it comes.
Stransky, who kicked South Africa to the glory of the 1995 World Cup, believes Wales would need something a little different in 10 years to trigger any excitement this summer. “The first point to consider is what is the greatest strength of this Boks team and how you fight it,” he said. “There is no doubt that the core strength of the ‘Boks’ team is that they have put the opposition under so much pressure in the first phase and then after the collapse. but it will be difficult for them, they will be under pressure.
“If you are a normal, controlling fly fisherman, it will be difficult for you to break this South African line, because the strength and pressure that come from the set phase means you are always a little on the back and it is very difficult to find gaps in a very structured defense system. I think I’d beat ‘Hips, you need a 10 that has a great vision, can do something extraordinary and with one breath, and it can be a bit contradictory. Don’t make mistakes because “Hipsters are great at making mistakes.”
In addition to being able to get himself into and around 13 channels, Patchell also has a direct, sharp pass that can get the ball there. Wales’ best moments against South Africa in recent years come from exploiting their aggressive blitzkrieg.
“One thing about ‘Boks Blitz is that you can get around them and that’s probably the way to beat them,” Stransky added. “But the wing midfielders are so fast that they can still fill that space. When you think of Makazole Mapimpi, if he makes the wrong decision, he’s so fast he can still cancel the threats. It’s a system they use that’s hard to beat.”
“I don’t think there’s a perfect system and there’s always a way to overcome it. But it’s tricky. Lukayno Am makes great decisions since the 13th. The wing players follow him, and if they get caught, they’re fast enough to cover.” But I think you have to offer something else. You won’t beat South Africa by playing standard swamp rugby because they’re maestro squeezing you into the country. “
Given that Biggar competed under Pivac in about four out of every five matches, it seems unlikely that this jersey would have gone anywhere else in the summer. This may be the same story in the 15 months between today and the World Cup. Frankly, Biggar’s own individual performances make it very difficult for him to be knocked down, and Saturday’s colorful match against Northampton against the Saracens showed the finer points of his offensive play.
But if Wales needs something a little special and Pivac needs something a little familiar to start the transition to the game that made his Scarlets a darling of European rugby in 2018, then Pivac, who wants to look at Patchell again, makes sense. . It is possible that Pivac is so excited that he will take him on tour despite another failure due to injury.