Midway through the 2019 Six Nations campaign, while Wales were grinding their way towards the most bloody-minded of Grand Slams, a senior Welsh Rugby Union staff member described Warren Gatland’s men as a “dogs— side”. He paused, grinned and then added: “You just try to get us off your shoe.”
That stubbornness has resurfaced after the tricky year that began Wayne Pivac’s tenure. A 40-24 win over England, their third consecutive triumph of 2021, has kept them on course for another Grand Slam.
There is a template to beat Eddie Jones’ side. When opponents stay patient and organised in the kicking exchanges, compete hard at the breakdown, work hard defensively and take try-scoring chances, they tend to trouble England.
Wales followed that method. They kicked 36 times, keeping most of them in-field so that the visitors only had five lineouts in the entire game. Their controlled aggression and nous caused England to lose seven of 77 rucks, too. There were moments of fortune, but Wales deserve immense credit as well. Here are three themes of their performance on Saturday.
This moment, from the second minute of an enthralling game, represented a microcosm of the contest as a whole. Attempting to stretch Wales, England move the ball wide via Owen Farrell to Jonny May.
George North drifts on to the ball-carrier, with Louis Rees-Zammit initially pushing out as well to cover Henry Slade: