Another Six Nations has been played out and Wales deservedly took the title and a 3rd Northern Hemisphere Grand Slam in seven years. They defeated a French team totally unrecognisable in performance from the one which contested the World Cup final.
Wales are to be congratulated on beating the best of the northern hemisphere but it is fair to say that this has been anything but a vintage Six Nations and the three games on the final day did nothing to change this view.
The Welsh approach has been a model of composure in moments of pressure and the humility they have shown before, during and after games has been a credit to them and a marked difference from recent years. The so-called mind games leading up to Test matches have stopped.
This can only be good news as the effects on the opposition can be unpredictable and it sometimes demonstrates to me a feeling of insecurity in the perpetrators. Wales’s focus appears to have been fully on performance on the field and this has helped them survive the tough times when they were down to fourteen men against both Ireland and England.
Wales’s stated aim is now to begin challenging and beating the Southern Hemisphere teams. It is a laudable and logical one but they will need to develop more adaptability with the ball , rediscover the inherent Welsh midfield creativity and recover the massive enthusiasm and ambition they showed in their World Cup performances.
I would bet this morning that even the French cannot explain their Six Nations campaign. They appear to have lost complete direction in how they wish to play the game. Their approach last weekend was demonstrated in the early moments when Beauxis ( what has Trinh-Duc done to alienate his coach ? ) attempted a drop goal from 55 metres that predictably , given his efforts v England , hardly left the ground. The French teams of old would have recognised a great counter-attacking opportunity but in their current pragmatic mode it probably never even crossed their mind !
Leaving aside their notorious unpredictability of performance, the French mindset has dramatically changed over the years and their overall approach , so distinctive in the past , has now become very uniform in comparison with other teams. Physicality has superseded creativity in midfield and territory has largely cancelled out counter attack.
This can be traced back at least 10 years when DISCIPLINE became the buzz word for the National side. I took this to mean that it signified a behavioural change to the needless giving away of silly penalties that often used to cost them dear. I was wrong ! It was to place a great deal more structure on their game ( a consequence of professional coaching perhaps ? ) .
So at the same time that Stade Toulouse especially and others were capable of playing in a variety of ways and could explode in a kaleidoscope of flamboyant , thrilling and winning rugby when the opportunities arose the National side were trimming their sails to a set piece , defence and territorial game.
Now , no-one is undermining the importance of these factors , but they will only take a side so far on the World stage over a period of time. More importantly this approach appeared to be totally at odds with the talents of the players available and how French coaches have traditionally interpreted the game down the years.
The French used to be many neutral supporters’ favourite team to watch and learn from but not any more, which is bitterly disappointing.
I have a simple coaching mantra : MINDSET INFLUENCES BEHAVIOUR WHICH DRIVES PERFORMANCE THAT DETERMINES OUTCOME.
I feel that this Six Nations French team have proved the validity of this.