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Sport Wales fans wanted Wayne Pivac to pick a more exciting team and already fear Autumn Nations Cup campaign is doomed

22:15  11 november  2020
22:15  11 november  2020 Source:   walesonline.co.uk

'No words can explain it!' Wales rugby fans try to come to terms with what's going on

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Wayne Pivac accepts Wales are under pressure ahead of Autumn Nations Cup . The head coach says results alone will not determine whether progress Pivac 's four-year deal as Wales head coach expires following the 2023 World Cup in France, although it is understood to contain a break clause at

The Autumn Nations Cup is a rugby union competition scheduled to be held in November and December 2020 in place of the usual Autumn internationals series typically held in the same period

So, Wayne Pivac has gone same again for Wales' Autumn Nations Cup opener in Ireland, by and large sticking with experience at the expense of planning for the future with youth.

The usual names are there, Pivac opting to rely on his tried and trusted as he seeks to arrest an alarming slide in fortunes which has seen Wales lose five games on the trot.

But what team did Welsh fans want to see picked after opening autumn defeats to France and Scotland?

Obviously everyone will have their own opinions, but well over 2,000 supporters took part in our mid-autumn Wales rugby survey.

We posed a number of questions - and the over-riding message from those respondents was for a younger side, with the likes of Callum Sheedy and Louis Rees-Zammit starting.

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Worryingly, you are also already writing off Wales' prospects in a group containing England, Ireland and Georgia.

Hopefully Wales will get off to a flier in Dublin and help everyone feel more positive about the national team again.

But these were the responses to questions in our survey from those fans who took the trouble to take part...

Who should play full-back?

Pivac has stuck by Leigh Halfpenny, who remains the Mr Dependable in this Wales team.

But 66 per cent of you wanted to see Liam Williams restored to the No.15 jersey he himself has worn with such distinction for Wales and the Lions, with the other 34 per cent happy to see Halfpenny retained there.

Perhaps, if Wales lose again in Ireland, Pivac will make the call - but he does like the reliability Halfpenny offers in defence, even if he lacks the swashbuckling running from deep of his Scarlets' team-mate.

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Halfpenny hasn't done much wrong in this campaign, hence the coach's decision not to tinker with his back three.

Who should be Josh Adams' wing partner?

It's taken as read Adams plays on one flank for Wales, but who do Welsh fans want to see on the other wing?

The overwhelming verdict is Louis Rees-Zammit, the Gloucester teen flier who was called into the Six Nations squad by Pivac but, frustratingly for the fans, continues to wait for his first Wales start.

A total of 64 per cent backed the call for Rees-Zammit to play, with Liam Williams netting 21 per cent of the vote for the other wing berth and George North just 14 per cent.

North has been a stalwart of the Wales team for a decade, although he will win his 100th cap from the bench against Ireland - presuming he comes on.

Rees-Zammit is the player fans want to see most, though. He has lit up the English Premiership with his try-scoring exploits for Gloucester and the feeling is the 19-year-old speed merchant can do exactly the same at Test level.

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A. Elizabeth, England’s most popular ruler, had a difficult childhood, having been declared illegitimate after the fall of Anne Boleyn. Football, or soccer, is only a minority sport in the USA, though the national team has qualified for World Cups recently.

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Very much the future for Wales, he is tipped for huge things.

When will Pivac finally give him his chance?

Against Georgia in Llanelli, perhaps?

For a potentially daunting challenge in Dublin, the Kiwi has placed his belief in those who've been around the block.

Who should play 10?

Another clamour here for a younger player, with Bristol fly-half ace Callum Sheedy netting 60 per cent of the vote.

Dan Biggar, who remains Pivac's first choice, got 26 per cent, with Rhys Patchell the remaining 24 per cent.

Sheedy has, at least, been named in the match-day 23 and presumably will make his Wales debut from the bench.

But, even more than Rees-Zammit, he has been lighting up the English game by helping Bristol to the play-offs and a European Challenge Cup triumph.

At 25, Sheedy is six years younger than Biggar and many of you feel the time has come for change at 10 to offer Wales different playmaking skills.

Pivac is not convinced of the need for change yet, though, falling back once again on Biggar with his renowned defiance and combative qualities.

a man playing a game of football: Callum Sheedy should be directing things for Wales, say the fans who took part in our survey © Huw Evans Picture Agency Callum Sheedy should be directing things for Wales, say the fans who took part in our survey

Should Taulupe Faletau still be starting?

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No, was the overwhelming verdict to the above question, although to be fair it was also asked on the premise that Josh Navidi and Ross Moriarty are close to a return.

Next to Justin Tipuric, those two formed the Grand Slam back row and would have been prime candidates to return against Ireland to bring physicality, aggression and more potency in the contact area.

But they are not ready to return yet after ankle and concussion issues respectively. Navidi should hopefully be available for next week's game against Georgia, while Moriarty will have to bide his time for a week or so.

But you clearly want to see them back in the mix, with 63 per cent saying Faletau should not be a nailed on starter any more.

There seems to be a bit of a pattern developing here. Like Halfpenny, North and Biggar the blockbusting number eight has been part of the cornerstone of the Wales team for many years, but post-injury he has yet to regain the form that saw him star for the Lions.

However, Faletau is not yet 30 and has been among Wales' best performers over the years, so might he be cut a little slack?

Should Pivac's focus be on developing for the future or targeting immediate wins?

Well clearly after five defeats on the trot, and any manner of criticism starting to come his way, Pivac needs to turn around Wales' fortunes.

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But 64 per cent of respondents would be happy with developing younger players for the future and a style of play, rather than making victories the priority.

a man standing on top of a grass covered field: Wayne Pivac has stuck with experienced stars © Huw Evans Picture Agency Wayne Pivac has stuck with experienced stars

Pivac has gone with the same team - so clearly getting a much needed win over Ireland on Friday night is his over-riding concern.

Where will Wales finish in their Autumn Nations Cup group?

Welsh rugby fans are historically the most optimistic and passionate group of supporters in the world.

But it appears even that fervent belief in their team is waning on the back of recent results.

Wales are in Group A, with England, Ireland and Georgia - and 87 per cent of you are expecting the team to finish either third, or bottom of the group.

This was how you voted:

Wales 1st: 2 per cent

Wales 2nd: 11 per cent

Wales 3rd: 63 per cent

Wales 4th: 24 per cent.

Who will win the Autumn Nations Cup?

Two per cent of you believe Wales will still emerge victorious.

But most are backing a resurgent France, with 53 per cent feeling the vibrant, new-look Les Bleus side will triumph. They do look formidable again, forward power backed by the half-back expertise of youngsters Antoine Dupont and Romaine Ntamack.

England? Well 40 per cent reckon Eddie Jones' men will win the cup, with four per cent backing Ireland.

Who has been Wales' best player of the autumn to date?

Josh Adams came first here, followed by Alun Wyn Jones, who always leads from the front.

Cardiff Blues youngster Shane Lewis-Hughes, who had one game against Scotland and has retained his place for Ireland, also features highly.

The truth is there hasn't really been a standout performer to date - although hopefully after Dublin a number of Wales players will have shone brightly.

Which outsider would you most like to see drafted in?

Outstanding Dragons back rower Ollie Griffiths won the day here with 30 per cent of you saying they'd like him called into the squad.

Next was Cardiff Blues' mercurial running fly-half Jarrod Evans with 25 per cent.

Then came Ospreys lock Adam Beard, somewhat mysteriously overlooked for the squad, on 22 per cent, with Liberty team-mate and centre Kieran Williams on 14.

Cardiff Blues back-rower James Botham, a big one for the future, polled 10 per cent.

Any of the above may yet get their chance if injuries hit during the Autumn Nations Cup.

But one thing is clear - a Wales win over Ireland will greatly lift spirits again.

Here's hoping.

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