Wayne Pivac summed it up perfectly in his post-match interview – “we scored six tries, 40 points and we should be happy with that.”
And why not! He’d only had a week to introduce himself and his new coaching team to the players and was missing most of the senior crew. The Baa Baas came stacked with talent and they obviously wanted to give both Warren Gatland and Rory Best a big send-off.
We knew it was going to be a rugby festival and with 11 tries it as just that. For Wayne it will have been a relief to see the scoreboard end 43-33 in his favour. He won’t need to go back and analyse much because he won’t have to coach a team to play against such awkward and confusing opposition ever again.
For this game he simply had to try to fine-tune what he had inherited in terms of a game plan and both he and the players responded well to each other. Now the hard work begins both on and off the field in preparation for the Six Nations.
It won’t have been lost on the new coaching team that they will be going into the tournament as defending Grand Slam champions. With Italy first-up at home they should be able to get off to a winning start.
‘Evolution, not revolution’ was the slogan used by the coaching team when they held a Press briefing on their first day in charge. That seems to be a great way to approach the mammoth task of trying to fill Gatland’s boots. They won’t want to rely on what has been done before and they will be looking to move things forward and put their own stamp on team tactics. The good thing from the win over the Baa Baas is that it looks as though everyone wants to play under the new regime.
There were players like Rob Evans who wanted to prove he shouldn’t have been left out of the World Cup squad and still has an international future, newcomer Johnny McNicholl who wanted to show he can make the step up to the international arena and others like Ken Owens who needed to show there is still life in some of the older heads.
I particularly liked the attitude and performance of Wyn Jones and made him my man of the match for TV. He covered every blade of grass on the field and set-up Josh Adams for one of his two tries. He was given his big chance at the World Cup and now he wants to prove he is here to stay. On this performance they will be no stopping him!
I think Wayne and co are going to have to tighten up on the Welsh defence because it hasn’t been great for the past 12 months. Perhaps that is why he brought in an extra man in Sam Warburton to work alongside Byron Hayward in that area.
Sometimes you find that players take a step backwards when there is a change at the top in the coaching staff. They wait to see how things are going to work out before putting their shoulder to the wheel.
There was no evidence of that in this game and these are exciting times for the players already in the squad and for those who want to make the grade. As Wayne proved with his selection to face the Barbarians, his eyes are wide open to options in all positions.
Gatland left Welsh rugby in great shape and I can’t see any way other than forward for this coaching and playing group.
Buckle up, we’re in for another great ride in the 2020 Six Nations starting very soon!
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