Six Nations 2014: Three talking points as Wales beat Italy
Wales 23 Italy 15: Three talking points as the Six Nations holders make a winning start to their defence
Wales scrum problems
Wales got their title defence off to the best start with a win over Italy with a sluggish performance, but the biggest concern for head coach Warren Gatland will be the ongoing scrum problems. Adam Jones has struggled to adapt to the changes brought in by the IRB this season and the pack were guilty of conceding several penalties for scrum infringements. The good news for Gatland is that it did improve in the second half, against the most-capped pack in the history of world rugby union. If Wales have any ambitions on the title, improving their scrum play will be critical with more physical opposition to come starting with Ireland next week in Dublin, which may require sacrificing tight-head prop Jones – something unthinkable in recent years, but with Rhodri Jones and Samson Lee playing well it is more likely than it has been in the last nine years, but Wales are notoriously slow starters in the tournament and they turned their fortunes around after a demoralising defeat by Ireland in the opening match last season. Once the dust has settled on today’s win and assessments made, there is undoubtedly a lot more to come from Wales – no more so than with their forwards.
Impressive Italian defence
Despite not boasting the biggest backs in the championship, the Italians were positive in pressuring the Welsh half-backs to prevent the home side gaining territory, spearheaded by man-of-the-match Michele Campagnaro. Wales were guilty of giving up too many turnovers in both attack and defence, but it would be an injustice to put that down to poor game management from Wales as much as good pressure in the breakdown from Italy, who also made more metres than the tournament’s front-runners in attack. The biggest problem for head coach Jacques Brunel is the lack of proven attacking options. Known for scoring tries from powerful lineout drives, they rarely show much attacking threat from the backs, but if he can continue his form from today throughout the championship, they may have found a gem in Campagnaro.
Forward pass law
Italy’s try at the start of the second half is another ridiculous example that proves the forward pass law needs to be refined. The touch judge directly in line with the pass didn’t give it, and the referee referred it to the TMO in the van outside the ground who, despite access to replays from numerous angles, determined the pass was legal. The IRB has shown little hesitation in tweaking the scrum laws from year-to-year and removing doubt from the forward pass will make it easier for players, officials and spectators. For all the talk of forward momentum and bringing physics into the debate, a forward pass is a forward pass and should be illegal in the true spirit of the game. It’s a talking point which is blighting world rugby, not just the northern hemisphere. Irrespective of the arguments around the law, Campagnaro did very well to finish the move off for his second try of the match as Italy produced a fine performance against the championship’s joint favourites. The performance today shows that, as much as Italy are favourites to finish bottom, they can still produce an upset or two in this championship when opportunities are presented to them.