Wales’ master of the so-called chop tackle will aim to cut down Fiji today and elevate his team further towards World Cup quarter-final territory.
Flanker Dan Lydiate’s defensive quality has underpinned many Wales victories during the past six years, with a relentless tackle-count proving to be a major feature of his game.
Lydiate will line up for the 50th time in Wales colours against Fiji – his back-row colleague Taulupe Faletau also reaches the half-century landmark – and he remains an integral part of head coach Warren Gatland’s team structure.
The chop tackle was born at World Cup time in New Zealand four years ago, named simply because of a need to tackle players and get them to ground as quickly as possible.
“It came about while working with [Wales defence coach] Shaun Edwards in the pool of death we had last time, with South Africa, Fiji and Samoa all being physical teams,” Lydiate said.
“It was trying to get players to the deck as soon as we could, and so that other players we had in the team like Gethin [Jenkins] and Sam [Warburton] could get over the ball.
“It developed from there and is something that has been highly effective for us.
“There are different types of tackles, and you are not always going to get it right. We vary our tackling, so in the last couple of years we started choking a few teams in the tackle and got success out of that. I pride myself on my defence, and when I do it right it is highly effective.”
It requires a huge amount of bravery to implement the chop tackle at maximum effect, and Lydiate added: “I find that it hurts me less when I do it properly. With the law of averages you are going to get some wrong.
“It’s like when I tried to chop against Uruguay. I chopped the one way, and [Wales lock] Dom Day came to finish him [Uruguay player] off and it clicked my neck, so it is going to happen.
“But when I get it right it doesn’t hurt at all, other than if I went high and had an elbow to the face or something which is going to hurt me a lot more. It has worked for the last couple of years, but I don’t just work on that in training.”
Wales know from a painful World Cup campaign eight years ago how dangerous Fiji can be, with the South Sea Islanders claiming a pool stage triumph in Nantes that knocked Wales out and meant coach Gareth Jenkins lost his job.
Victory today, though, would put Wales clear at the top of their group from heavyweight rivals Australia and England, with England then knowing that defeat against the Wallabies on Saturday would see them eliminated.
“It will be a massive challenge,” Lydiate added. “It is a home game for us, but we will not be taking them lightly by any means. If we do, we will be punished.
“Play against any South Sea Islands team, and they are that much harder to defend against because they vary from one game to the next.
“There is no set structure, but if you kick loosely to them and they get a head of steam and get over the gain-line, their off-loading game comes into play and it is a hard day at the office then.
“We have to stop that at source and stick to our structure and force our game-plan on them.”
Even after the game is done and dusted, Lydiate’s work will not be done, as Wales squad tradition means that any player reaching 50 caps has to sing a song in front of his team-mates.
“I will be on my iPod [looking for songs],” Lydiate said. “I doubt if Toby [Faletau] will do it. I have never heard him sing before, so he could have a voice like an angel.
“I do not think a duet has been done before, but I can say there is not much planning that has gone into this.”