Wales are looking to rebound from their worst Six Nations performance since 2017 in this year’s competition.
After winning the Grand Slam in 2019 under head coach Warren Gatland, Wales’ 2020 performance was disappointing as they finished in fifth place ahead of Italy, winning just one game.
Last year was New Zealander Wayne Pivac’s Six Nations debut as Wales head coach and it was not the seamless transition that was hoped for, as his side lost all of their matches after their first win over Italy.
After defeating Italy 42-0, Wales went on to concede 98 points and only managed to score eight tries in the remaining four games of the tournament.
Wales’ run of bad form continued in November and December in the Autumn Nations Cup, where they again finished in fifth place behind France, Scotland, Ireland and Italy.
After last year’s results, the stakes are high for Pivac, as this tournament will likely be decisive in determining his future as head coach.
Wales showed a lack of attacking prowess in 2020 and a lot of young talent has been brought in to try to shake things up, such as Kieran Hardy, 25, Callum Sheedy, 25, and Josh Macleod, 24, the team’s only uncapped player, to name just a few.
Sheedy was Wales’ top scorer and the overall fourth highest scorer in the Autumn Nations Cup with 21 points, and his presence in the squad could prove to be crucial.
The return from injury of the experienced hooker Ken Owens, 34, will also bolster Wales this year and Liam Williams, 29, is another player to watch as one of the side’s most experienced backs.
Wales will start this tournament this weekend with a tough home game against Ireland, who they comprehensively lost to 32-9 in November.
Their next game, away against Scotland, is likely to be more closely contested, as they only lost 10-14 in their last match in October.
Wales will be optimistic about their chances against Italy in Rome, who they beat twice in the last 12 months, but their matches against England in Cardiff and France in Paris will also be challenging.
Although they are unlikely to contend for the top spot, they will look to improve on last year’s solitary win.
Featured image: ComposedPix via Shutterstock