Rugby Union: Pack to front in Ireland

Jonathan Davies sees a revitalised forward effort free Welsh inhibition s
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The Independent Online
THE Welsh backs performed the execution, but it was their forwards who built the scaffold. They started the game so sluggishly that the Irish looked as if they could bash them all over the field, but the Welsh pack clawed their way back into the game and in the end were the dominant force - and in Dublin that takes some doing.

Ireland must be furious to suffer another narrow defeat after looking as if they could win, but they had less to complain about than they did against Scotland and France. Sure, Ireland should have made more of their opportunities, but I believe Wales deserved their victory much more than the Scots or the French did.

Ireland fell off the pace after their strong start, but you have to give the Welsh forwards credit for fighting back from what had looked a hopeless position. The lapse of concentration that led to Ireland's first try was very ominous and to shake off a start like that took a massive effort.

I said in my column last week that if the Welsh could get parity up front, they would win through superior pace and skill at the back. And that, quite simply, is what happened.

While Ireland were very poor behind the scrum, Wales had the cutting edge that the Irish defence couldn't live against. And the important thing is that Wales attacked from the first phase. They didn't try slow build- ups, they went for the throat as soon as they got the ball.

I hope they carry that on against the French at Wembley. When they try a driving line-out they are hopeless, but when they vary it and go for off the top ball or shorten the line they look a very dangerous outfit.

Quick reaction to quick ball is difficult to play against, particularly when the backs are coming at you are as good as the Welsh were yesterday. Neil Jenkins had his best game for a while and young Kevin Morgan added that essential killer touch down the middle.

The difference between the two sets of centres was colossal. While the Irish lack pace and the ability to finish off moves, Allan Bateman and Leigh Davies were just too strong in attack and defence. Davies was particularly effective and made one of the tries. I don't know if Scott Gibbs is going to be fit for the French match, but if he is it is going to be a difficult problem for the selectors.

It is hard to pick out special heroes from the Welsh pack. I thought Colin Charvis had an excellent game at No 8 and although Stuart Davies did well when he come on late in the game, I'm not sure a change in that position would be justified. The main thing was that the Welsh forwards contained the ball so efficiently.

They've come a long way since Twickenham and I certainly wouldn't write them off against France. If the forwards play as well and as bravely as they did yesterday, they have the backs to do the rest.

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