Six Nations 2020: What next for Wayne Pivac's Wales?

By Gareth GriffithsBBC Sport Wales
Wales players look dejected at final whistle at Twickenham
Wales players look dejected at final whistle at Twickenham

Wales coach Wayne Pivac will have left Twickenham on Saturday evening with plenty to ponder.

Amid the post-match carnage concerning the debate over Manu Tuilagi's red card and the fallout from the Alun Wyn Jones and Joe Marler incident, Pivac achieved an unwanted Six Nations statistic in his first tournament.

Wales have now lost three matches in the competition for the first time since 2007, the year before Warren Gatland took charge.

They will be aiming to avoid a fourth consecutive loss when they next Saturday host a resurgent Scotland that have beaten Italy and France.

So these are challenging times for the new man in the face of a demanding Welsh public who had enjoyed unprecedented success under the last regime.

'Be a bit kind'

That was something you might think Eddie Jones might seize on. After all, the England boss had before the tournament raised the issue of Pivac having to walk through the "Gatland Gates" at the Principality Stadium.

But on this occasion Pivac found himself an unlikely ally.

Eddie Jones says Wales shouldn't be too harsh on Wayne Pivac

"It's a tough period for Wales," said Jones.

"They have been through a fantastic period under Warren.

"You look at their side here, they had 850 caps. So it's a very mature team. Once you get to that many caps, you know there's regeneration coming.

"That's the difficult part. The coach has changed and they've had a tough Six Nations.

"If you're a Welsh supporter you would be pleased with the spirit they showed. I thought they were outstanding and Pivac is doing a good job. He's going to be feeling the heat a bit and you need to be a bit kind to him."

Defence questions

Whether or not kindness will be in short supply remains to be seen.

Though there were three Grand Slams, four Six Nations titles and two World Cup semi-finals, Wales also had tough times during the 12-year Gatland era which included sobering defeats in Dublin and Twickenham.

One thing Wales will have to fix is their defence under Byron Hayward, with 10 tries conceded in three games since the 42-0 win over Italy which began this Six Nations campaign.

The manner and timing of the tries leaked is the most concerning aspect because there have been early scores easily conceded with Wales then forced to chase games.

Hayward was always going to have a formidable task as he followed in the footsteps of Shaun Edwards, who says he joined France after the 2019 World Cup because they offered him a four-year deal.

Wales' defence was caught too narrow against Ireland and the two tries conceded at Twickenham from attacking lineouts were too simple.

The Gatland gameplan was built on firm defensive foundations, applying pressure on the opposition and staying in the match so they could excel in the final quarter. So far Wales have been left with too much to do under Pivac.

They have been too easily breached in this tournament, with Wales feeling the loss of injured defensive organiser Jonathan Davies in the integral outside centre position.

England made twice as many tackles as Wales but their rearguard resistance proved stronger than that of their opponents, at least until the final few minutes when, with 13 men on the pitch, they conceded two scores.

That meant there were just three points between the teams at the end, a margin of defeat which flattered the visitors.

The damage had been done as England won the physicality battle, with Wales again left to grapple with the lack of potent ball carriers able to power over the gainline in their side.

Wales are trying to develop an attacking offload game that has high risk and reward, highlighted by the brilliant Justin Tipuric try against England with Nick Tompkins the architect.

This intent has looked encouraging at times but the tournament has been littered with unforced errors and missed opportunities. That has been Wales' Achilles heel.

England demonstrated that cutting, clinical edge at Twickenham despite Wales boasting the superior statistics, with 64 per cent possession and more attacking metres made.

Nick Tompkins won his fourth Wales cap against England at Twickenham
Nick Tompkins won his fourth Wales cap against England at Twickenham

Firm foundations

The set-piece has proved a persistent problem for Wales with the scrum often creaking and lineout only forming a scrappy source of possession.

Wales have had their gripes about certain refereeing decisions that have not gone their way with "scrummaging straight" one of the vogue phrases to emerge.

In the absence of injured tight-head prop Tomas Francis, Wales have relied on two rookie number threes in Dillon Lewis and Leon Brown who have been sorely tested in the international arena.

Pivac believes they will benefit from these early experiences and will go on to become successful Test campaigners.

It is a steep learning curve and the forwards have to become more streetwise at international level, which is a peculiar situation when you consider Wales fielded the most experienced Six Nations starting side ever against Ireland.

There has been too much post-match moaning going on rather than sorting out problems on the field.

Reasons to be cheerful

Wing George North displayed glimpses against England which prove he still has a lot to offer at international level.

Fly-half Dan Biggar showed his courage and class after shaking off a knee injury, while flanker Josh Navidi slotted in after a two-month absence through a hamstring problem.

Justin Tipuric in full flow against England in his 76th Wales cap against England
Justin Tipuric in full flow as he claimed his 76th Wales cap

It is Tompkins and Tipuric, though, who have been Wales' standout players and who were the key figures in the most memorable moment of the campaign, the length-of-the field Twickenham try.

Saracens centre Tompkins has offered a different attacking dimension in his debut campaign, although has had his defensive challenges, most notably against Ireland.

Tipuric, 30, remains peerless, a class apart in the Wales set-up, outstanding on every occasion. The foraging flanker is the ideal candidate to replace Alun Wyn Jones as Wales captain when the record-breaking lock finally hangs up his boots.

So some small positives, yes, but plenty more pressing issues to be resolved.

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