Wales attack coach Stephen Jones believes his side have learned from their mistakes of 2020 and have put that experience to good use at the start of this year’s Guinness Six Nations campaign.
Wayne Pivac’s side won just three of their ten Test matches last year, including a run of six consecutive defeats, as they relinquished their hold on the Championship trophy by falling to a fifth-place finish.
But after that turbulent transitional year for the new boss – who took over from Warren Gatland after the 2019 Rugby World Cup – Wales have come out the other side looking as revitalised as ever.
Victories over Ireland and Scotland see them sitting second in the table heading into their Round 3 clash with England in just over a week’s time, and Jones believes a tricky 2020 has helped them in the long run.
“I think we’re in a good position. We used the autumn series to give opportunities to a lot of young guys and new players,” said Jones.
“That was the whole aim, to develop strength in depth. I was delighted with the experience those boys gained in the autumn and how they’ve hit the ground running with us in this campaign.
“With the autumn, we made it clear what the autumn series was about, which was to develop and learn about a lot of the players.
“With that goes a bit of the results, but it was about the bigger picture. So far, we’re two from two and we’ve got good momentum which is exactly what we want.”
Wales remain unbeaten after a 21-16 victory over Ireland in Round 1, followed by a pulsating 25-24 win over Scotland at BT Murrayfield in Round 2, as Louis Rees-Zammit turned on the style to help his side come from behind on both occasions against teams reduced to 14 men.
The 2019 champions have scored six tries in their two matches, despite having carried the ball in hand for the least time of any of the six competing nations after two fixtures – with just 968.9m gained in possession.
And Jones puts that down to his side’s efficiency in the contact area, which has seen them make the most of the times when they have the ball in their grasp.
“You’re learning all the time. It’s as simple as that,” Jones explained. “Whether you’re learning about certain players you work with or law changes that affect something.
“The most recent one was the autumn where the contact area was key. Talking from an attack perspective, efficiency there and how you get the speed of ball to play the want to play is the big focus.
“Speed of ball, how we shape defences, that is our focus point. We just want to do that for longer periods, that is our goal.
“When you attack, you want to control and dictate the speed of the game. Being efficient in the contact area allows you to do that.”
Next up for Wales is an encounter with reigning Guinness Six Nations champions England at Principality Stadium, as they look to secure the Triple Crown with victories over each of the home nations.
And Jones is well aware that Eddie Jones’ defence will be a tough nut to crack in Cardiff next Saturday but his side are more than up for the task in hand – brimming with confidence after two wins on the spin.
“We respect England as they’re Six Nations champions. There is a huge amount of experience in their side. From our perspective, we’re really looking forward to it,” Jones said.
“The players they’ve got, their mindset and repeatability in defence, I respect them in that part of the game. For our attack it’s a great challenge and one we’ve got to really look forward to.
“We know it’s going to be a physical challenge, but we’re back in Cardiff and are two from two. There’s a lot of momentum and huge amount of excitement here.”