Column: Wales building platform to go far

It was a long wait for Wales but the Grand Slam champions made up for lost time with their fast start in their World Cup opener against Georgia.

It was a long wait for Wales but the Grand Slam champions made up for lost time with their fast start in their World Cup opener against Georgia.

In total contrast to their first game of the 2019 Guinness Six Nations, where they had to overcome a 16-point deficit in Paris to pull out a remarkable win that set them on the course for the Grand Slam, this was a clinical first-half performance.

And while a 43-14 win against the Lelos does not give us a huge indication of what is to follow for Warren Gatland’s side, there were certainly some positives to take away from it.

It is something of a cliché that Georgia focus a lot of their energy on their scrum and their maul, but considering that coach Milton Haig mentioned just that after the game, it is definitely true.

In the first half, the battle of the packs was relatively even in the scrum, Wales edging it for the first 20 minutes including one huge double shove that earned them a penalty.

Georgia got their own back later in the half, but achieving parity in that area is a positive sign for the rest of the competition.

Tomas Francis, the Wales tighthead prop who played the first 47 minutes, played a large part in that success, and explained afterwards that Wales had fought fire with fire.

That will be an approach that applies in every area for the Grand Slam champions, who face another formidable forward test against Australia after they used their tight game to see off Fiji.

Having had to watch all their Guinness Six Nations rivals take to the field, Wales will not have as much preparation time for that clash with the Wallabies, the most important of the pool stages for them.

The well-publicised losing streak against Australia was ended last November, and there should be no psychological barriers facing Gatland’s side.

They were clearly well-drilled in the game in Toyota, having identified an issue in the Georgian defence of the inside ball and scoring their first three tries from first phase.

There will not be such wide-open gaps available to them against the Wallabies, but that does not mean there will not be space to exploit.

Tries from first phase are rare in rugby, but as well as Wales, Namibia showed that it can be done, even in defeat to Italy.

Expect Gatland and the rest of his coaches to have a plan for the Wallabies in Tokyo this weekend.

Where Australia have had eight days to prepare for the Wales clash, Gatland has just six – a big reason for the quick turnaround between the two warm-up matches against England.

Under the Kiwi, Wales have been well-known for the extreme measures taken to prepare the team, from the early cryochambers in Poland to more recent use of baby oil to get accustomed to the slippery conditions.

So this short recovery period will have been managed down to the tiniest detail. The loss of Cory Hill is of course a blow although the emergence of Adam Beard during the Guinness Six Nations lessens the blow somewhat, particularly with Jake Ball now fit and firing as he did on Monday.

If that minor disruption does not throw them off-course, and Wales come through their Australian test, then they can start dreaming of the quarter-finals and beyond.