Introducing Wales: Can Pivac rediscover the winning formula?

Alun Wyn Jones 28/11/2020
As the reigning Guinness Six Nations and Grand Slam champions, hopes were high in Wales ahead of last year’s Championship as they set out to defend their crown.

As the reigning Guinness Six Nations and Grand Slam champions, hopes were high in Wales ahead of last year’s Championship as they set out to defend their crown.

But what was billed as a new era following the departure of Warren Gatland proved instead to be a tough initiation for Wayne Pivac as he attempted to instil his own way of playing.

It ultimately proved to be a year to forget for the New Zealander and his side as they finished fifth in the Championship before achieving the same result in the Autumn Nations Cup.

Yet things are looking up ahead of the 2021 Guinness Six Nations, with a number of bright young prospects coming through the ranks to suggest the future is bright for Welsh rugby.

Pivac is certainly confident Wales are more than capable of rediscovering the form that culminated in their 2019 clean sweep – the question now is: can his players do the business on the pitch?


At 35 years old, Alun Wyn Jones remains the beating heart of this Wales team.

The lock was instrumental in Wales clinching the 2019 Grand Slam, wining the Player of the Championship award for his contribution, and he shows no signs of slowing down.

He became the most capped international player of all time when he made his 149th international appearance in Wales’ 14-10 defeat to Scotland on the final day of last year’s Championship.

And since surpassing Richie McCaw’s record, the three-time British & Irish Lions tourist continued to feature heavily for his country during their Autumn Nations Cup campaign.

But Jones will be itching to right the wrongs of Wales’ disappointing title defence last year and help guide a new crop of talented young stars to another Guinness Six Nations triumph.


Taking over from a coach as successful as Gatland was always going to be an unenviable task but even Pivac would not have anticipated the rollercoaster ride he experience in 2020.

The New Zealander has won three out of 10 competitive games since he took charge in late 2019 and will be well aware that the pressure is on him to start turning Wales’ fortunes around.

Bringing in the experience of players like Dan Lydiate will certainly help his cause while there were signs of Pivac beginning to put his stamp on the squad during the Autumn Nations Cup.

His Scarlets side were known for their entertaining brand of free-flowing rugby but the jury is still out on whether Pivac can inject similar flair into a Wales team that is straddling two eras.


Pivac could not have asked for a better start to his Wales career.

The defending champions opened their 2020 campaign with an impressive 42-0 win over Italy as Josh Adams claimed a hat-trick in addition to tries from George North and Nick Tompkins.

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But that was as good as it got for Pivac’s men in last year’s Championship, with Andy Farrell’s Ireland bringing Wales back down to earth with a bump on the second weekend.

That 24-14 defeat for the holders was followed by a 27-23 defeat to France in Cardiff while a heroic fightback against England was not enough to prevent another defeat, this time 33-30.

Things went from bad to worse when the Guinness Six Nations resumed in October as Scotland claimed a first victory over Wales on home soil in 18 years on Super Saturday.


To leap from fifth to first seems like a mighty ask of Wales.

Victories over Georgia and Italy in the Autumn Nation Cup were certainly welcome for a team low on confidence, but they did not suggest Wales were capable of a title challenge.

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Results rather than style of play will be top of the agenda for Pivac in the 2021 Championship although a win over Ireland in Cardiff in Round 1 could completely change the goalposts.

The arrival of Callum Sheedy, Louis Rees-Zammit and Johnny Williams on the international scene has provided reason for optimism, though, as Pivac continues his rebuilding job.

And the head coach himself has laid down the gauntlet to his players, telling the media that his side has what it takes to clinch the Guinness Six Nations title.


Wales v Ireland, Cardiff, February 7, Kick-off: 15:00

Scotland v Wales, Edinburgh, February 13, Kick-off: 16:45

Wales v England, Cardiff, February 27, Kick-off: 16:45

Italy v Wales, Rome, March 13, Kick-off: 14:15

France v Wales, Paris, March 20, Kick-off: 20:00