The 2019 Rugby World Cup saw another chance for Wales to reach a first World Cup final pass them by. South Africa edged out Warren Gatland’s side in the semi-finals to leave Wales pondering what might have been, as their victorious opponents went on to win the competition.
Even though it ended in disappointment with that defeat to South Africa and a loss to New Zealand in the bronze medal match, it was a strong showing from Wales in Japan. They defeated Australia in the pool stage to top the standings and showed their resilience in holding off a strong French side in the quarter-finals.
Attention now turns to the 2020 Six Nations Championship. Having won the Grand Slam in 2019, Wales will be hoping to build on their strong World Cup campaign and taste victory once again. They’re currently third favourites to win the competition in Six Nations Championship betting odds, but will be confident of emulating the success of 2019. Let’s run through a few key talking points ahead of Wales’ Six Nations campaign.
The new man in charge
Wayne Pivac is the new head coach of Wales, having replaced long-time boss Warren Gatland at the end of the World Cup. The Australian has experience of Welsh rugby, having coached Scarlets for five years before taking on the international role. He also spent three years in charge of the Fiji national team, so will understand the pressure and expectation around international rugby.
It will be interesting to see how Pivac adapts to the role and what changes he makes. Gatland enjoyed a fine time as Wales’ head coach, winning three Six Nations Grand Slams and leading the team to two World Cup semi-finals. It’s a tough act for Pivac to follow, so he’ll be under close scrutiny when Wales’ first match against Italy kicks off on February 1st.
It’s important that Wales don’t dwell on the disappointment of failing to reach the World Cup final. The semi-final against South Africa was close-fought, although Wales may feel they didn’t quite perform at their highest level. But that is all in the past, and to enjoy a successful Six Nations, Wales will need to draw from the positives of their World Cup performances.
The senior figures have a responsibility to rid the squad of any lingering disappointment, and this is where the experience of Alun Wyn Jones will be key. The 34-year-old is still going strong and is a natural leader in the team. He was named Player of the Championship for the 2019 edition and Wales will need him to bring the feel-good factor back to the camp.
Wales will have their work cut out if they want to win a second successive Grand Slam. England are understandably the favourites to win the Six Nations after their World Cup exploits. Eddie Jones’ side are a cut above their Six Nations rivals at the moment, and the win over New Zealand in the World Cup semi-final spoke volumes of the quality within England’s ranks.
Ireland are another strong contender, but they too are in a transitional period after the appointment of Andy Farrell as their new head coach. France proved at the World Cup that they are more than capable of competing, so Wales will need to demonstrate fine form from the first whistle if they want to build momentum and go on a winning run.
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