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Who should start at 12 for Wales?

Welsh Wales
by Sean Davies (U1712711) 13 September 2008
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This Sunday’s Scrum V will be taking a look at the new debate sweeping Welsh rugby as 12 becomes the new 10 – who should start at inside centre for Wales?

Phil Davies speaks about the increased emphasis put on the 12 position by the Experimental Law Variations, Scott Gibbs gives his thoughts, and there’s an archive feature looking at Wales’ greats in the position going back to Ray Gravell in the ‘70s.

I touched on the 12 position in an article back in the summer, talking about Gavin Henson’s injury and what the stats reveal about his importance to Wales.

Since then Jamie Roberts has emerged as a serious, long-term contender for the spot, but other than that I think that those facts and figures are still relevant - so I’ve copied and pasted them!

Henson has started 21 times for Wales. His country has won 15 of those matches, there has been one draw and just five defeats.

The wins include: Two victories over England, two over France, two over Ireland and one victory in Argentina. The draw was against Australia in 2007.

No wins over the Tri Nations giants in there, but if you look at the games Henson has lost they again tell a story.

He started all three games of the 2004 summer tour, opening with a narrow defeat in a 50-44 thriller against Argentina.

After winning the second Pumas Test, a tired Wales side went to South Africa where Henson started at full-back rather than his usual inside-centre berth, Wales predictably coming off second best.

Wales put in a much more impressive performance against the Boks that autumn, Henson scoring two tries but seeing his side fall to a 36-38 defeat.

The All Blacks were next, Wales putting in a hugely impressive performance but blowing a great chance to end the long wait for a win over New Zealand as they went down 26-25.

Henson’s only other defeat when starting for his country was in last November’s pointless post-World Cup Test against the Boks, a disjointed Wales side never really having a chance in Nigel Davies’ caretaker game as coach.

Seven substitute caps have also come Henson’s way, Wales having lost six of those and won just one (against Japan) – is that back-up for Jonathan Davies’ point about Henson needing to build momentum and be a focal part of the team?

I think it’s clear to most people that Wales operate at a different level with Henson at 12, with no-one else able to fill the breach.

The likes of James Hook and Ceri Sweeney lack the physicality for the position.

Gareth Thomas, Sonny Parker and Jamie Roberts have had their moments at centre alongside Tom Shanklin, the twin power runners helping some fine performances, but when teams get used to that threat the vision has been lacking to take the game to the next level.

Tom Cheeseman, Gavin Evans and Andrew Bishop seemed to have some potential to cover the 12 spot, but as yet they have been unable to take the next step forward.

Perhaps the young Scarlet centre Jonathan Davies offers the best option as a Henson stand-in, but for now Warren Gatland will be praying that the high-profile Osprey star is back sooner than later.

Would love to hear your thoughts, here are a few links that might be useful:
Wales’ results archive:
Wales’ fixtures:
Pick your Wales XV:

Latest 10 comments

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comment by maz6666 (U2188284)

posted Sep 17, 2008

theexcluded - you can watch scrumv in full on the bbc iplayer! sorted.
I do agree with allblacks15 that Gareth Owen is very much in the mould of Gavin Hense. His swagger and time and the ball, coupled with his eye for the try line, seem uncanny . Welshladgareth - playing Roberts at 10 is also a good idea, it seems he is the only real contender to BIg Gav at 12 for the next year or so i'd say, so why not?!

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posted Sep 17, 2008

Henson must be 12 he does every thing he he is asked and more he can perform under any pressure.

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posted Sep 18, 2008


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posted Sep 19, 2008

Its a nice problem for Wales to have - Henson, Roberts, Hook, even Bishop.
But surely Henson is the man - he has a fantastic boot, great defence, linebreaking capability which will only be more of an asset under the new ELVs, and by all accounts he was the defensive captain for Wales during the Grand Slam last season.
Obviously he needs to refind his match form, but that as a given, he is number one choice at 12 for Wales surely - by a margin.

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comment by Thunor (U10890672)

posted Sep 19, 2008

I think the point of the article is 'who starts at 12 if Henson isn't available'.

There isn't really anyone who comes close to Henson at the moment. Roberts may be there but he's only played there once for Wales and twice for the Blues so it's a bit early yet.

Hook's not a 12 and shouldn't really play there ever again.

Bishop is ok if despirate but will never be challenging for the 1st team.

Not what I would call a nice problem to have

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posted Sep 19, 2008

Hammer - you must be watching a different game to me.
And anyone who has spent any time watching England in recent seasons must recognise that Wales has a surfeit of talent in midfield compared to England who are coping with raw youngsters at the moment.
Wilkinson has turned to Buddhism, Barkley can't defend, so they are having to bring in a 29-year-old Maori in Riki Flutey to fill the hole.
They are queuing up with young talent in Wales, and you shouldn't rubbish Bishop. He is a quality player. And who says Hook can't play 12? He's just better at 10 that's all.
And remember there's Parker also aswell as Roberts.
Gatland is on record as saying its important to get all the top footballers on the park, and that's why Hook played 15 in the summer. They can mix and match who they like and still have a decent back division. Its England who have the problems, let's face it!

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comment by Thunor (U10890672)

posted Sep 19, 2008

What on earth has the situation in England got to do with Wales? If England came last in every six nations for a decade would you be happy if Wales came 5th? No. Why do you have to bring everything back to England?

I didn't rubbish Bishop, I said he was never going to push Henson for 1st choice.

Hook wasn't playing that well at 12 and all his best games were at 10 (granted this may be down to S Jones' poor form and Jenkins refusal to put Hook in).

Again Roberts is very very green at 12. I never said there isn't potential just that it's not there now.

The fact you talk about Parker at 12 makes me chuckle a little. The reason Roberts got put into 12 in the first place was because Parker was so bad there. He's only just holding his place at 13 (or lost it if you listen to some people).

I admit there are 12s in Wales but none are anywhere near Henson. Henson's not THAT good he should be so far ahead of all the other 12s in the country.

At least you have settled top quality 12. We're still waiting for ours. Hopeful if someone gets some time in the position they'll come through ok

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posted Sep 22, 2008

Hammer - not sure your analysis of the Parker/Roberts switch is quite right.
De Villiers has been outstanding this season, and he, James and Jacobs absolutely dominated the midfield area in the 1st Test.
Roberts was there to plug a hole, as I see it, and at the same time give up his space to allow Hook to play 15.
Parker has shown himself to be a quality centre over the years, and I don't he was dropped so much as Gatland was experimenting.

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comment by Thunor (U10890672)

posted Sep 22, 2008

Parker was poor in the 6 nations too. He has shown he's a good centre but he's really been off form for a while now. I can't see him getting back in the team (or at least the 15)

However, as you say, my assessment may be well out and he could start all the AIs. I'll admit Gatland probably know more about rugby than I do too winkeye so he knows best

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posted Sep 22, 2008

The gulf between Henson and his nearest rival is considerable. But who is no. 2?

Hook is a complete no and it is very unfair to expect him to play this position. G Jenkins got this completely wrong and it should never be repeated. Hook is our outside half for the next 10 yrs and we should be concentrating on handing the mantle over to him from Steven Jones. Distracting him with playing 12 can only damage his career.

Jamie Roberts and Jon Davies look like the most exciting players who could break through in the next couple of years. The likes of G Evans, Bishop & Sweeney all, I fear, have the same curse as Gareth Wyatt and Garan Evans...great club players but nothing extra left to shine at international level.

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