Patchell should start with Wales ready for the World Cup

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It wouldn’t be a huge surprise if Warren Gatland’s team talk at the end of the final World Cup warm-up game last week was simply ‘let’s get out of here’.

Yes the results haven’t been ideal the last few weeks, the second game against England aside, but nobody ever won or lost a World Cup two weeks before the tournament even got underway.

Looking specifically at the game in Dublin there was more than a sense of wanting to get the warm-up games over and down with. The edge that defines Wales was missing; an intensity in defence, the intelligence of the carrying, and the underlying structure when the opposition have lost theirs.

For many players it was a case of wanting to get minutes under their belts, and it almost felt like they were going through the motions in order to do that. Peaking at the end of the month is key.

Ireland had a point to prove on Saturday, after their only other game involving the majority of their first XV had seen them suffer a heavy defeat away at Twickenham. They were also at full-strength from the start and playing in front of their own fans.

Wales will be content with what they showed against England at the Principality Stadium, and will take huge positives from how the lineout functioned at the Aviva Stadium, even if there were problems going forward.

I have no doubt that by the time Gatland’s men run out against Georgia they will be at the required level to earn a solid win and push on towards the big game against Australia.

The New Zealander knows how to get his team peaking at just the right time. He’s been around the block more than once, and also knows this team inside out having worked with basically the same set of players for the last 18 months to two years. I may not agree with everything he’s done, but he’s continually proved he can get results when it counts.

Jake Ball Ireland
Wales came unstuck against Ireland in the final World Cup warm-up

Perhaps his only big decision ahead of that game at the Toyota Stadium on the 23rd September will be who starts at fly-half because, as has happened a number of times in the last year, the attack struggled to function with Dan Biggar in the driving seat.

Of course there were far too many lost collisions up front, particularly in the second half, but when a good attacking picture was offered the chances of any incisive play from Wales were slim to none.

Biggar still offers a huge amount to Wales, with his goal kicking, aerial skills, defensive ability, game management and sheer competitiveness.

However, the Grand Slam was won on the back of a balance being struck between Gareth Anscombe starting the game, kicking when necessary but also getting the back line moving, before Biggar entered the fray to manage the final 20 minutes.

It is not a straightforward decision for Gatland by any means, with Patchell’s lack of game time going into the tournament on the back of a tough season with the Scarlets and another knock to the head against Ireland, but is one he should be considering.

If I was the head coach of Wales, which thankfully for all of us I am not, I would be putting the former Glantaf pupil in the 10 jersey more often than not. Make a positive decision and back the team to go out and attack.

My big concern is that if and when the team get knocked out of this World Cup the reason will be because the attack did not win us a game, despite the defence giving us the opportunity to do so.

We start against Georgia on Monday 23rd though, and whichever fly-half is selected we should have more than enough to overcome the Eastern Europeans and get the World Cup campaign off to a flyer.

 

 

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