Rugby World Cup 2019: Wales flash with brilliance but Georgia highlight the work that must still be done

Wales came through the challenge but against the likes of South Africa, New Zealand and Australia, they’ll be aware that these vulnerabilities will pose a serious threat to their hopes of further success

Rugby World Cup 2019 in numbers

As the two teams trotted into the changing rooms at half time, the scoreboard made for a worrying read for those clad in purple. With 29 unanswered points to Wales’ name, their World Cup opener against Georgia threatened to be a walkover.

But, then, something curious happened: the Georgians stirred into life. Who knows what was said down deep in the bowels of the City of Toyota Stadium, but after the restart the flow of the game changed. Suddenly there was resistance, there was spirit, there was a refusal to roll over and submit to Wales’ free-flowing, penetrative style of rugby.

The hits came thick and fast. Justin Tipuric, no shrinking violet, was picked up and thrown backwards, a paper bag caught in the wind. Alun Wyn Jones, a mountain of a man, was placed on his backside in the centre of the park. Even George North was not immune to the new-found ferocity of the Georgians. He found himself subject to a well-executed tackle from Georgia’s 9, Vasil Lobzhanidze, who shunted the Welsh wing a good few yards backwards upon the point of collision.

Having failed to come close in the first half, it wasn’t long before Georgia had two converted tries to their name. Yes, Wales added 14 more points to their own scoreline before the game was up, but the manner in which their opponents, ranked 13th in the world, were allowed back into this match didn’t go unnoticed by Warren Gatland.

“It was a good first half but we were a bit messy in the second and the ball was a bit slippery,” he said afterwards. ”Georgia came pretty hard at us in the second half and defended a bit better. To concede those two tries was disappointing.”

“There are a few things to tidy up,” he added.

Indeed, it was a performance that, in so many ways, showcased Wales’ strengths while simultaneously casting their flaws under the spotlight.

Let’s start with the positives. The fluidity and clinical edge of the Welsh backline was, at times, world class, coming into play for a number of the side’s tries. The first, after just two minutes, was a glowing example of this, Jonathan Davies driving hard and true through a gaping hole in the Georgian defence after a fine pass from Gareth Davies.

So too the fourth. It was a stunning display of attacking flair that involved a No 9 wrap-around, some hard running from Jonathan Davies and a well-taken pick-up by Liam Williams. This was Wales at their absorbing best as they carved upon the hapless Georgian defence, pulling it apart from top to tail like a cheese string.

But once Georgia found their feet, it was a different game. The high line enforced by the men in purple began to draw mistakes from their opponents, with balls dropped and momentum-changing tackles made in the heart of midfield.

The Welsh set-piece, in particular, found itself buckling under periods of sustained pressure. The threat posed by the Georgian scrummagers was known beforehand – but that mattered for little as Mikheil Nariashvili and Beka Gigashvili reaped havoc in the front line.

Georgia’s second try of the match came as a result of their efforts, the two men boring in against their opponents to force the penalty, which was quickly followed by a tap-and-go, three phrases of play and, finally, the touch down by Levan Chilachava.

Wales were similarly targeted at the line-out. Georgia’s first try came as a result of back-to-back throw-ins, with Gatland’s men unable to stave off the rolling mass of purple shirts flooding forward against their white line. It was Shalva Mamukashvili who drew blood, crashing over on 44 minutes to set up a more testing second half.

Wales came through the challenge, as was to be expected, but against the likes of South Africa, New Zealand and Australia, they’ll be aware that these vulnerabilities will pose a serious threat to their hopes of success here in Japan. Only once they iron out their flaws will the Welsh be able to stand their own against the game’s very best.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Please enter a valid email
Please enter a valid email
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Please enter your first name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
Please enter your last name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
You must be over 18 years old to register
You must be over 18 years old to register
Opt-out-policy
You can opt-out at any time by signing in to your account to manage your preferences. Each email has a link to unsubscribe.

By clicking ‘Create my account’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

Comments

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in