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Will Wales Win the 2020 Six Nations? Here’s How They Can Defend Their Crown

| December 14, 2019 7:01 am PDT
Will Wales Win the 2020 Six Nations

On November 7, 2007, I remember walking past a little shop in Cardiff, Wales, on my way to a meeting. Outside of the newsagents — which sits nestled in Bridge Street where thousands of fans pass every year to see their heroes in the Principality Stadium — I saw a headlining confirming that Warren Gatland had taken up the role as the new head coach of the Welsh national team.

I thought to myself that this was an excellent appointment for the Welsh, but I had no idea just how much of a legend Gatland would eventually go down as in his adopted homeland.

Gatland signed off from duty as Wales boss following a semi-final loss to South Africa at 2019’s Rugby World Cup. His last appearance as the head coach at the Principality in the Six Nations culminated in a Grand Slam for his team.

Now, with Gatland gone, Welsh rugby fans are preparing for life after the most popular boss in decades. 

The man tasked with keeping Wales among the best in the world is former Scarlett’s head coach, Wayne Pivac. A fellow Kiwi, Pivac was regarded as one of the top coaches in European rugby, but to say he has big shoes to fill would be an understatement. 

That said, if Wales win the 2020 Six Nations, I’m sure there will be no complaints from fans in red shirts.

Wales head into the contest as the bookies’ third favorites to win the Six Nations. But are these odds accurate, or will Wales run away with the title?

Here’s how and why Wales can win the 2020 Six Nations.

They Are the Defending Champions

Sometimes, there is nothing worse than sitting in front of the TV screen and watching your team being absolutely torn to pieces.

Well, actually, there is. Having to sit at pitchside only to be subjected to watching your team being spanked is a lot worse. And that is exactly what happened when I attended Wales vs. Ireland at the Principality in March 2019. 

To make matters worse, Ireland’s coach Joe Schmidt had requested that the retractable roof be kept open for the game. Naturally, the Welsh skies had to throw down buckets from the heavens on the fans like me who were not protected from the elements.

Although I was quietly confident that Ireland would put up a good fight in that match, what I didn’t expect was to watch them be spanked in every single department. 

Sucked to be me, but I was happy for my Welsh friends. Their team deserved the Grand Slam. 

Although Wales ended their campaign in style, it started out as a bit of a horror show. 16-0 down at halftime, it looked like Gatland’s dream of winning a final Grand Slam was as good as over.

Yet the Welsh turned things around in the second half. Profiting from some criminal French errors, they ended up winning the game 24-19. Like Ireland’s 2018 Grand Slam win the year before, a great escape in Paris was the catalyst for success. 

Throughout the campaign, Wales slowly built momentum. By the time the much-fancied England came to Cardiff, a Grand Slam dream was a reality. A 21-13 victory meant that a win against Ireland in the final game was enough to win their first clean sweep since 2012.

Losing Gatland might change things for this team, but they will enter the tournament as the defending champions. With that, there will be confidence.

An Excellent Mix of Youth and Experience

Lead by an absolute warrior of a captain in Alun Wyn Jones — a guy that earned the 2019 Player of the Tournament as well as a nomination for the BBC Sports Personality of the Year for his efforts — motivation is never an issue.

Jones is one of the best locks on the planet and has that same inspirational quality of the likes of former greats Martin Johnson and Paul O’Connell. He is an important player in this team, but not the only senior player in the ranks.

Openside flanker Justin Tipuric is another hugely influential player in the team. While he may prefer to lead by example rather than words, he always gives his best in a red shirt. Tipuric will rarely rate under 7/10 in a game and is among the best 7’s on the planet.

Outside center Jonathan Davies is another experienced player that can rouse the troops and keep a calm head when things are going wrong. Then, the likes of George North and Leigh Halfpenny are always good to have around the team.

Halfpenny was the starting 15 until the emergence of Liam Williams as one of the best in his position. Williams is the inform full back in the Six Nations and is also a crucial player for the team.

With an exciting crop of young players established in the squad, there is the right blend of youth and experience heading into this tournament. 

One Welsh player I have been very impressed by, in particular, is Cardiff Blues’ Josh Adams, who scored three tries in his debut championship. Among the most dangerous wings in the game, Adams is likely to have a big impact in 2020.

Aaron Wainwright is another one of the young guns that can cause some trouble in 2020, with the likes of Adam Beard and Owen Watkin clamoring for chances to show what they can do. 

Defense, Fitness, and…

Wales’ defense under Gatland was, at times, the best in the world. 

With defensive mastermind Shaun Edwards a huge part of this, it was clear, from day one, that the duo had identified Wales’ efforts in this department as in desperate need of patching up.

In the 2008 Six Nations — the first of Gatland and Edwards’ — Wales was incredible in defense, leaking just two tries in five games. In 2019, they conceded just seven tries in total. 

Now that Gatland and Edwards have departed, with the latter now working in the same capacity with the French national team, it will be interesting to see how impenetrable Wales is under Pivac. 

The new boss is regarded as more of an attacking coach than his predecessor, but it is highly unlikely that the established structure will be completely torn up and thrown out the window.

One of the key ingredients of an elite-level defense is fitness. Gatland and Edwards helped Wales to earn a reputation as among the absolute fittest teams on the planet, and it is unlikely that this will change in 2020.

Defense and fitness are a major reason why Wales, under Gatland, managed to reach two World Cup semifinals as well as win four Six Nations (with three Grand Slams).

But in recent times, there has also been tangible confidence in the team. Take, for instance, that win against France in 2019. While previous teams would have buckled, Wales came back and stole the show in the second half. 

Despite losing 13 test matches on the bounce to Australia, Wales held their nerve and beat them in 2018 for the first time in a decade. 

While there will be changes to the setup when Pivac stamps his culture on Wales, these things will not be lost in the mix. Instead, they will be looking to add to the existing structure and inject a little je ne sais quoi while they are at it.

Wales Has More Six Nations Trophies Than Any Other Team

If you’re going to consider Wales’ achievements in recent times, it is only worth pointing out that the country has won more trophies in this tournament than any other.

And by “this tournament,” I am referring to the Home Nations, Five Nations, and Six Nations championships. Rather than give you a history lesson on why the tournament has changed its name over the years, a simple Google search can do that for you.

Anyway, Wales has 39 wins in the tournament, which includes 27 outright victories as well as 12 that were shared.

This is one ahead of England’s 38, which includes 10 shared titles. 

Wales fans are surely aware of this stat. If you are a Wales fan and did not know, you’re welcome. 

Anyway, this highlights the fact that Wales has been incredibly successful over the course of the championship. In the 21st century alone, they have won five championships, with four Grand Slams. 

This is just behind England, who has six championships but only two Grand Slams since the year 2000. Ireland has four championships and two Grand Slams in the same timeframe. 

Is this reason to believe that Wales will win the 2020 Six Nations, or do stats like these mean very little? Is this a good time to mention that the last time they won the championship, they had captured the Grand Slam the year before?

Look, regardless of how seriously you take stats, there is no doubt that Wales should be considered as up there with the best in 2020. Sure, they are the third favorites right now, but with a strong outing in their first game against Italy on February 1, those odds might start to look a little different. 

The Element of Surprise?

Despite Wales being one of the powerhouses of international rugby under Warren Gatland, at times during his tenure, they were accused of being one-dimensional.

Still, many coaches found it difficult to outdo the Kiwi given that he had one of the best defenses and fittest squads in the championship. In many ways, you knew what you were getting from Wales on the day, but that wasn’t enough to stop them.

With a solid team that is often more than the sum of their parts, the Welsh have achieved a lot in the international game.

Yet when you look at their lack of achievements at domestic level, you start to wonder how some of these players can be so good in the national shirt, yet anonymous when it comes to the PRO14 or European rugby. 

When Wayne Pivac takes the reigns, opposition coaches will likely be preparing for a different approach. As I stated earlier, things aren’t likely to alter dramatically from the existing way of doing things, but at this level of rugby, the devil is truly in the detail.

With Wales set to travel to London and Dublin in back-to-back Six Nations games in 2020, both Eddie Jones and Andy Farrell will be expecting the unexpected. Will Wales have tricks up their sleeves? You bet they will.

As with Farrell’s Ireland, the element of surprise could come in very handy in this tournament.

Warren Gatland, Declan Kidney, Joe Schmidt, and Eddie Jones have all capitalized on this in 2009, winning the championship in their first campaign. Schmidt was the only coach of those four not to win the Grand Slam, too.

Make no bones about it, we know that the positive factors that make Wales a force to be reckoned with will be apparent come February 1. But what should worry other teams are the things that they are not yet aware of.

Closing Thoughts

Much like their Six Nations rival, Ireland, Wales is entering a new era, having lost highly-rated coaches that have attained much success in their respective reigns. 

With Wayne Pivac taking the Welsh hot seat, all eyes will be on the new coach. Can he sustain Wales’ success, or will he fail to fill the shoes of Gatland?

Still, you can get strong odds on Wales winning the Grand Slam, and even the championship. Check out the top rugby betting sites to find out the best prices available.

Adam Haynes
Adam Haynes

Adam is a sports writer and tipster with a strong background in MMA, boxing, and combat sports.

When Adam isn't writing about those, as well as politics, rugby, and Gaelic Games, he can be found working on methods and strategies to beat the bookies.

For his troubles, Adam is a fan of Leinster Rugby, Glasgow Celtic, and trusting the process.

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