Sport The big Wales selection decisions facing Wayne Pivac and why Shane Lewis-Hughes could start against Scotland
The two completely different Wales teams Wayne Pivac can pick this autumn which are each quite strong
Wales coach Pivac can have a Team A and a Team B for the autumn campaign and there is real talent in either sideSpoiled for choice or just completely indecisive?
Plenty of people have had their say over what the Wales team to face Scotland should be, but what will Wayne Pivac actually do?
With the pressure mounting after four straight defeats, how will the Kiwi coach shuffle his hand for Saturday’s rearranged Six Nations clash at Parc y Scarlets?
Rugby correspondent Simon Thomas looks at the key selection issues and comes up with a likely team.
The clamour here is for Pivac to start with teenage try sensation Louis Rees-Zammit.
But with all the talk about this being a “must-win” match, Pivac is more likely to go with experience in the back three.
The added element is that Lions Test star Liam Williams is now back fit and available again.
The six key things we need to see from Wales this autumn as Wayne Pivac has a huge void to fill and a point to prove
Wales kick off their autumn campaign against France this weekend and coach Wayne Pivac knows he has a point to proveTheir opening warm-up game against France is the closest thing you can get to a training match in a capped international.
He’s only had the one outing since March, following a foot injury, but he did look the sharpest player on the pitch during the Scarlets’ dour victory over Benetton last weekend.
So I would expect him to come into the starting line-up. The question then is who drops out?
Josh Adams is nailed on, while Leigh Halfpenny’s positional play, defensive solidity and ability under the high ball will be invaluable at full-back, especially with heavy rain forecast and no roof on Parc y Scarlets!
So I see Williams coming in on the wing for George North, who could provide wing and centre cover from the bench.
Prediction: Leigh Halfpenny, Liam Williams, Josh Adams.
Nick Tompkins made a big impact during the Six Nations with his play-making and passing and there was much anticipation over him linking up with the fit-again Jonathan Davies.
What shell-shocked Wales are missing most and the things Wayne Pivac has to do ahead of Scotland clash
The five-try setback against France in Paris on Saturday has left the Wales head coach with much thinking to do as he tries to plot a way forward after four straight defeatsHow much time do you have?
But things didn’t really click in midfield against France, with Tompkins not having his best game.
Giving the rain-sodden forecast, Wales may well look to go for more of a direct option at 12 to provide the kind of go-forward that was missing in Paris, while also reinforcing the rearguard.
They could opt for the uncapped Johnny Williams, who has made a real impression with his carrying since joining the Scarlets.
But experience might well hold sway again, with squad regular Owen Watkin linking up with hard-running defensive marshall Davies.
Prediction: Jonathan Davies, Owen Watkin
With Rhys Webb having taken a bang to the knee against France, a change looks likely at No 9 and Gareth Davies is the obvious man to come in.
He will add a bit more physicality around the fringes and a forceful running threat, while if Wales are looking for someone to fly up in the defensive line, Davies has proved himself very adept at that job.
How all the Wales coaches have fared so far and the improvements we need to see
Wayne Pivac's first year in charge of Wales has been far from comfortable as the 2020 Six Nations finally reaches its climaxAfter defeat to France, you wouldn't have to search far to find Welsh rugby fans calling for the heads of Wayne Pivac and his coaching ticket.
I would expect Lloyd Williams to leapfrog Kieran Hardy in the pecking order to provide a seasoned tactical presence on the bench following his call-up to the squad.
At 10, some would like to see a more ball-in-hand, attack-minded option in Rhys Patchell or even the uncapped but bang in-form Callum Sheedy.
But with win at all costs being the mantra, the pragmatism and tactical control of Dan Biggar will doubtless get the nod, particularly with his ability to navigate the ship through the squall.
You can see him chasing his own up and unders and leaping skyward in trademark fashion a fair few times given the conditions.
Prediction: Gareth Davies, Dan Biggar
Video: Justin Tipuric on what it's like in the Wales rugby team's Covid bubble (Wales Online)
The scrum was one of the few plusses in Paris, but a change is still likely here.
For one thing, Samson Lee is a doubt having sustained a head knock, which means he is going through the return-to-play protocols.
Moreover, Tomas Francis is back in the mix.
He had been Wales’ first-choice tighthead for a couple of years before a nasty shoulder injury in the World Cup semi-final against South Africa when he had the misfortune to run into Duane Vermeulen.
Gary Lineker's brother Wayne, 58, 'signs up for Celebs Go Dating'
Gary Lineker's brother Wayne has 'signed up for Celebs Go Dating according to new reports, one month after being mocked over his bizarre 'girlfriend criteria' list.According to The Sun, the nightclub owner, 58, will look for love on the E4 reality show, after previously stating on Instagram that his future girlfriend had to 'give up her career, not want children, be able to cook ready meals and love R&B music'.
So now that he’s available again, having been on Premiership final duty with Exeter last weekend, I would expect him to start and resume his scrum cornerstone role.
With Wyn Jones over a hamstring problem and Nicky Smith a try-scorer against France, there’s competition at loosehead.
But the need for forward carriers may well see Rhys Carre keep his place, with the same going for Ryan Elias at hooker.
Prediction: Rhys Carre, Ryan Elias, Tomas Francis
Who to partner Alun Wyn Jones at lock has been an ongoing debate for some time now, with the spot having rotated between Jake Ball, Cory Hill and Adam Beard, with Seb Davies a youthful athletic option.
But I suspect we may well see another candidate making his first start there on Saturday in the sizeable shape of Will Rowlands.
There has been much talk about the need to add physicality and carrying clout to the pack post-Paris and the 6ft 8ins, 19st 5lb Rowlands certainly offers a presence.
He also comes oven-ready from top-level club rugby having just played for Wasps in the Premiership final and Wayne Pivac is clearly an admirer.
The 29-year-old is a thoroughly modern lock, who gets through a truckload of work.
His tackle count is huge, his ball-carrying is really valuable and he’s also got a turn of pace for a big man, offering mobility and agility, in addition to being a reliable lineout operator.
Who is Shane Lewis-Hughes? The shock Wales starter who wasn't even in the squad a week ago
The Cardiff Blues flanker's motto is “obsessed to be the best.” He is driven, dedicated and has a steely-eyed focusSo what’s the background of the Cardiff Blues blindside and what will he bring to the party?
Clearly he is a rookie at this level, with just one outing off the bench.
But who better to guide him through than skipper Jones, who will become rugby’s most-capped player of all time when he appears in his 149th Test this weekend.
Prediction: Will Rowlands, Alun Wyn Jones
Now this is where it gets really interesting.
There has been a lot spoken about Wales’ luxury of riches in the back row and we have certainly seen a conveyor belt of talent come through in that department.
But just at the moment, we are scratching round for the right combination, amid a number of absentees.
Things didn’t really gel there in Paris, with the breakdown being a real area of concern.
As I’ve said before, Josh Navidi would be the ideal man to come in, as there is no one better in terms of clearing out at the ruck, while he also offers real physicality in the collisions on either side of the ball, plus another jackaling presence.
But he won’t be available for another couple of weeks as he recovers from concussion, while Ross Moriarty is also sidelined with an ankle problem and the hamstrung Josh Macleod is not available to show off his unrivalled turnover work.
Thomas Young would be just what the doctor ordered, but he is ineligible under the 60-cap rule, which I have made clear I feel is harsh as he wasn’t offered a deal in Wales, while it’s now sadly almost two years since we have seen Ellis Jenkins’ excellence on the pitch.
What was actually happening in Wales’ catastrophic breakdown performance against Scotland
We assess how Wales lost the battle of the breakdown as Scotland emerged triumphant in Six Nations clashIn the transcript of his post-match Press conference, few words come up more than 'breakdown'.
So where does that leave us?
Pivac could go with a dual openside option of James Davies and Justin Tipuric and “Cubby Boi” would certainly add to the armoury over the ball.
Alternatively, Aaron Wainwright could be handed another chance to get back to where he was a year ago.
But I just have a hunch Wales may opt for the uncapped Shane Lewis-Hughes at 6.
For me, Tipuric and Taulupe Faletau always play better when there’s someone in the back row doing the hard graft at the coal-face, allowing them to flourish in the wider channels.
Navidi filled that role perfectly and Lewis-Hughes fits the bill in the same way.
He is an absolute machine in terms of his tackle count, with echoes of Dan Lydiate at his best, while he would bring an edge and a physicality that was lacking in Paris.
At 6ft 4ins and 17st 11lbs, the 23-year-old from Ferndale also offers oomph as a carrier, while he is developing as a jackal and is a genuine lineout target.
He’s also clearly made a big impression since his call-up to the squad, based on what Pivac has said, so it wouldn’t surprise me at all to see him handed his debut.
Prediction: Shane Lewis-Hughes, Taulupe Faletau, Justin Tipuric
Wales (possible): Leigh Halfpeny; Liam Williams, Jonathan Davies, Owen Watkin, Josh Adams; Dan Biggar, Gareth Davies; Rhys Carre, Ryan Elias, Tomas Francis, Will Rowlands, Alun Wyn Jones (capt), Shane Lewis-Hughes, Taulupe Faletau, Justin Tipuric.
Wales team v Ireland: The most likely changes and big selection decisions .
Changes seem likely up front for the Nations Cup trip to Dublin as Wales look to end a five-match losing run after a miserable Six Nations campaignIt’s no easy assignment either, with a trip to Dublin’s Aviva Stadium to take on Ireland lying in store, as the Autumn Nations Cup gets underway.