Analysis: Attack fails to compliment defence for Wales U20

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Wales U20 brought their World Rugby U20 Championship campaign to an end with a tough 26-45 loss at the hands of England U20 on Saturday.

It saw the young Welshman to sixth in the competition, the first time we’ve finished better than seventh since 2015, on the back of a two-and-a-half week stretch of blood, sweat and turnovers.

The defence has been very solid throughout, barring a tired showing in parts on a heavy pitch against Fiji, and a tough time in the first half against England when their speed of play ripped us to shreds at times.

However, the attack has largely failed to match the high standards set, with tries created from outside the 22 few and far between, even against England when three of the four scores came from driving mauls.

A large part of the problem has been a lack of a big ball carrier, something which we aren’t particularly known for in Wales, as Jac Morgan has played at number eight despite being an openside by trade, and none of the three second rows mostly being used having that serious physical edge.

Away from that though there has been an obvious lack of organisation when it comes to the forwards working in formations of carrying pods, which has had a knock-on effect on the backs. The proof is in three different attacking sets from the first half of the England game.

This is only a short three phase attack but in just two of those phases it outlines the lack of organisation among the Wales U20 forwards when attacking, as opposed to when we were without the ball.

The carrying phase in the first clip is fairly textbook as the three-man pod stand at first receiver, all three are carrying options to keep the defence honest with the middle man taking possession and carrying with his team-mates latching and cleaning.

However, as the ball comes back the forwards from the phase before have not worked around to get into any sort of formation, with Wales ending up looking at a seven-forward blindside up against four England defenders, on the wrong side of the breakdown from their backs.

As a result there’s no screen or dummy runner on hand and, as Tiaan Thomas-Wheeler makes one of his increasingly trademark angles, there is no support on hand at the breakdown and England secure the turnover.

On to a lengthier attacking set from first phase ball and already within two phases there is a lack of organisation among the forwards as poor decisions are made in regards to ruck entries.

At each breakdown there is an unnecessary extra forward who could be fulfilling a role in a carrying pod or as a screen/dummy runner for the backs, but instead we wind up after two phases with four forwards at a breakdown with no English defenders involved.

We wind up with this mess of an attacking picture where five forwards are on the floor stretched across two phases, a sixth is stuck in no-man’s land between the two and the final forwards are out of the game at the bottom of the image.

Cai Evans at fly-half is calling for forwards to set up in a pod around the red line, to act as a screen, which would allow him to slide wider and target the space between England’s outside defenders, but the lack of organisation leads Harri Morgan to make a poor decision to snipe.

It all gives the impression of an attacking unit that lacks direction and identity, completely the opposite to defensively where we’re a high intensity, turnover targeting team for all to see.

We finish this attacking set with both our fly-half and inside centre stuck in a breakdown and with little organisation, which is where we start the final attacking set to be analysed.

With Harri Morgan and Tiaan Thomas-Wheeler at the bottom of a ruck, and Cai Evans stepping in at scrum-half, you would expect the forwards to come tight to the breakdown and into carrying pods until the backs are set.

That works for a phase, but instead of staying organised and in control of the game, Wales fan out, with Cai Evans the only back in position and joined both inside and outside him by forwards who should be taking the team through another phase before the backs line-up towards the left-hand touchline.

Evans, with few options, shovels the ball inside to Ed Scragg who is brought down behind the gainline. Harri Morgan has to return to the breakdown to secure possession, but the slow ball and lack of shape results in us kicking the ball away inside two phases.

All-in-all it was a Wales U20 side that had the defensive side of the game nailed, but lacked the organisation, and at times imagination, to really make their mark on the game in an attacking sense.

With prospects like Carwyn Tuipulotu and Morgan Strong ready to step up to the U20s next season, and bring their ball carrying with them, as well as Aneurin Owen returning and hopefully staying fit at inside centre, the chances of front foot ball look better.

Then it’s all eyes on Sam Costelow, and whether the fly-half can spark the outside backs into life. No pressure!

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