Politics

Wales’ props made just one carry between them and gained zero metres in stark contrast to England’s


Wales once played an international rugby match where the Monday morning debriefing made for an especially uncomfortable session for the two props and hooker who’d started.

None of them had made a single carry or tackle during the game that had been played.

“There has to be more,” the coach told them.

It wasn’t a lifetime ago.

But it was embarrassing for those involved.

Even back then, the roles of those who ply their trade at the sharp end were changing.

That process is accelerating today.

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While the basics are still hugely important — of course they are, with a prop who can’t scrummage about as useful as a lifeguard who can’t swim — the number of looseheads and tightheads contributing busily around the field has gone through the roof.

Figures from Twickenham on Saturday were revealing.

Although Wales’ starting props shaded the scrum battle, forcing penalties out of their direct opponents, there wasn’t a huge amount in it, whereas the figures for the work done with ball in hand were eye-popping.

Between them, Wyn Jones (1) and Tomas Francis (0) managed just one carry between them, compared with Ellis Genge (13) and Kyle Sinckler (11) putting in 24 runs as a pair.

The Welsh duo also failed to make a single metre, while Messrs Genge (68) and Sinckler (30) gained 98 metres.

Such numbers do make a difference.

Genge isn’t the greatest scrummager in the world — he’s conceded three set-piece penalties in this tournament compared to the one Jones has coughed up — and he doesn’t endear himself to everyone but he impressed with his all-round contribution against Wales.

On BBC’S Six Nations Rugby Special, former England captain Dylan Hartley said: “I love what Ellis Genge is doing. He is exceeding what props should be doing. When you think about a prop, back in my day, [it was] just scrummaging, but he offers himself up.

“He’s always staying on his feet, he’s always involved, his actions are explosive and physical, with good clear-outs.

“He carried the ball 13 times in that game. Compare that to Wyn Jones’ one carry.

“The England front row carried 27 times against Wales’ seven.”



Ellis Genge in action for England against Wales

Hartley pointed to Genge running back down the wing at full pelt as he tried to stop a Welsh counter as the game opened up. “There’s no skill involved in that,” said the ex-hooker. “It’s pure ticker, all attitude and grit. He embodies that work ethic.”

So far in this championship the Leicester Tiger has made a startling 147 metres from 25 charges forward, with Sinckler eating up 88 metres of ground.

Wales’ run-on props have made 39 metres from a combined total of a dozen carries.

Then there’s the France loosehead Cyril Baille, working feverishly to dash across the pitch to keep going a movement that saw him contribute an offload as Les Bleus scored against Scotland.

Baille can also pass like a centre and breaks tackles.

Predictably, Tadhg Furlong is also having a strong campaign. Not only is he a rock-solid scrummager, he shirks nothing in the loose. Indeed, the Ireland tighthead likes nothing better than to take the ball forward, something he has done 19 times in this Six Nations with 84 metres banked for his team.

There are positives in other areas for Jones and Francis.

For instance, 21 props in this Six Nations have had penalties forced out of them but Francis isn’t among them. He has anchored Wales’ scrum and is always missed when he’s not on the pitch.

Jones’ set-piece work has also been good and the two Welshmen have collectively piled up 56 tackles.

But it shouldn’t end there.

It isn’t a Welsh thing for looseheads and tightheads not to take the ball forward.

Gareth Thomas came off the bench against England and had nine runs into the heart of the England cover, making 43 metres, while Leon Brown also made good ground. Thomas, in particular, must now be pushing hard to a starting spot.

Of course, rugby has become a 23-man game and Wayne Pivac may feel it’s about trying to achieve a balance between having a solid set-piece, which is clearly important, and achieving go-forward in the loose from his men at the sharp end.

He would be right to think that as well.

But he’ll also know that zeroes appearing on stats sheets aren’t a welcome sight.

From Wales’ starting props, there needs to be more around the field and particularly in respect of their carrying.

It matters.

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