- 11 Sep 07, 03:51 PM
Swansea - With the dust having settled on our win against Canada on Sunday, it’s only now that I’ve sat and watched the boys in action that it’s hit home what I’m actually missing in France.
It was a day of mixed emotion for me and the thought that I may be watching my only chance to play in a World Cup slip away was not eased by the Canadian first-half performance.
In hindsight fans will be asking why it took us so long to exercise our superiority in the contest but it must be understood that in international rugby, regardless of who you are playing or what world rankings suggest, there is not going to be a lot of room early on.
This was evident in all of the weekend’s matches and, with the exception the dazzling All Blacks whose first-half onslaught against Italy was an ominous message to the rest, none of the fancied teams were able to wrestle full control of their respective games until a solid foundation had been laid.
So let’s take nothing away from Canada. They came with a physical game plan to spoil and disrupt Wales and it worked early on. I thought the early trend of missing touch with clearing kicks didn’t allow us to dominate field-position at all and in turn meant that we were playing the rugby in the wrong areas of the field. That completely suited the dogged Canadians and didn’t allow us to exert any continual pressure.
But in fairness to the boys nobody panicked and the considerable experience that we had in the changing room allowed the team to identify the flaws at half-time and put them right after the break. The character and composure shown in that second period are traits that will no doubt be called upon again if we are to achieve what we are capable of in this tournament.
Another big plus point was the set-piece. The consistency we showed in that area meant we could play the game on the front foot and subsequently we managed a total of 12 line-breaks. The second-half substitutions, which are now well-documented, obviously had a positive impact too and it just shows the importance of having a strong bench.
I just wanted to end with a quick note regarding James Hook. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the media’s knives have come out for James in the wake of his substitution on Sunday and after one performance that has dipped below his own exactingly high standards, there is suggestion that he’s a spent force!
The bottom-line is James is class and we are so fortunate to be able to call on a guy with both the sublime talent and the cool temperament that he posseses. He and Stephen Jones are central to everything that Wales want to achieve and Gareth Jenkins will be desperate to utilise the strengths that each of them bring to the table to maximum effect.
Ryan Jones plays number eight for Wales but misses the World Cup through injury.