Sport Wayne Pivac's 11 new Wales players ranked and what the future holds for them

16:15  30 november  2020
16:15  30 november  2020 Source:   walesonline.co.uk

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Wayne Pivac ’ s side came up short in the Autumn Nations Cup, losing 24-13 to their rivals. It still did not result in victory and the irony was the improvement under their new coaching regime was a nod Wales fans are still waiting to see the expansive rugby Pivac is looking to bring. There was no sign of

Wales coach Wayne Pivac believes they are 'heading in the right direction'.

It’s a year to the day since Wayne Pivac’s oversaw his first Wales game, a bit of uncapped fun against the Barbarians in Cardiff which ended with a 43-33 win in the hosts’ favour.

The serious stuff started a couple of months later when the Six Nations started.

Since then it’s been hard work for Pivac as he's tried to push on from the Warren Gatland era while retaining some core personnel.

But he has been looking to the future, as well, with 11 players handed Test debuts.

We assess how they have got on, ranking them in terms of impact, and look at what the future might hold.

11. Sam Parry (v France, October 24, 2020)

What’s been going on here?

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Wales’ throwing has been awful this autumn and they haven’t won many turnovers. But Parry, who is adept at pilfering opposition ball, hasn’t had a start.

Has he reversed a lorry over Pivac’s car at any point?

Or has he been slightly behind his rivals in training?

We’ll assume it’s the second option, though neither of the other two hookers Wales have used as starters, Ryan Elias and Elliot Dee, has been especially convincing.

Parry’s debut off the bench against France was steady. Maybe the Ospreys strongman deserves a chance against Italy this weekend. Let’s see if he gets it.

a man hitting a ball with a racket: Sam Parry © Ben Evans/Huw Evans Agency Sam Parry

10. Ioan Lloyd (v Georgia, November 21, 2020)

His Test bow against Georgia went smoothly as the teenager looked to get on the ball.

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Wales coach Wayne Pivac has named New Zealand-born backs Johnny McNicholl and Willis Pivac says he has no qualms about picking players who have just become eligible if he feels they deserve their YES I know what the rules are, but they are a joke. These two have no ties to Wales , one has

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He went back to his club Bristol Bears over the weekend and produced a man-of-the-match performance , with the highlight being some Fred Astaire footwork and a break that set up a stunning try against Worcester Warriors.

A contributor on the BristolLive website said: “His ability at such a young age is frightening.

"Not only does he have the pace, the footwork and the kicking skills, but he has the intelligence and swagger to know what to do with it all and the try-saving tackle in the first half shows that he also has the physicality.

"The way that director of rugby Pat Lam was purring about his performance after the game tells you all you need to know and if he stays injury free then we could well be seeing the development of one of the rugby greats.”

Hype, hype, hooray?

Whatever, the kid has big potential.

9. Johnny McNicholl (v Italy, February 1, 2020)

Scarlets watchers will testify that this guy is a lethal attacking player. He scores tries and sets them up. For opponents he can be a nightmare to defend against.

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He made an encouraging Test debut but injuries have hampered him through 2020 and he hasn’t been able to put his stamp on the Test scene yet.

At 30, time isn’t on his side.

But he’s a class act who just needs a favour or two from the gods.

8. Will Rowlands (v France, February 22, 2020)

There is ample evidence to suggest the 6ft 7in lock is a fine player, with some of his displays at club level for Wasps being outstanding.

His carrying on debut for Wales also marked him out as someone who could give the Welsh pack an extra dimension. But things haven’t truly ignited for him since, notwithstanding an encouraging defensive effort off the bench against England.

He has too much to offer not to stay involved, but we await a defining effort from him in international rugby.

7. Kieran Hardy (v Georgia, November 21, 2020)

His debut may not have made headlines but it was neat, tidy and encouraging, with the youngster doing the basics well and showing he could operate at Test level.

He did more than enough to stay on Wales’ radar.

6. Callum Sheedy (v Ireland, November 13, 2020)

A cameo off the bench against Ireland was followed by a first Test start against Georgia. Sadly, the weather didn’t play ball against the eastern Europeans, so it would be unwise to draw too many conclusions.

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But Sheedy appears to have a calm temperament and is an assured distributor who understands the importance of a team playing in the right areas.

He’s added to Pivac’s fly-half options.

5. Nick Tompkins (v Italy, February 1, 2020)

a group of people sitting at a table: Nick Tompkins heads into the crowd for an emotional embrace after Wales debut © Six Nations Nick Tompkins heads into the crowd for an emotional embrace after Wales debut

The tooting of a horn 11 minutes from time against Italy at the outset of the Six Nations prompted one live-blog writer to suggest such an exercise said it all: “Are you awake? It’s been flat once again.”

A hard-to-please take on a game that Wales won 42-0 with five tries?

Whatever, Tompkins did all he could to put some fizz into proceedings.

He made an excellent first Wales appearance and followed it with a strong show against France. Along the way since, there have been some defensive glitches he needs to eliminate, but he’s busy, keen and a hard worker, a player who’s going to stay part of Wayne Pivac’s plans.

4. Shane Lewis-Hughes (v Scotland, October 31, 2020)

"If you look at Alun Wyn in terms of his preparation, the way he trains, and the way he reviews and previews his opposition, Shane Lewis-Hughes is a clone,” said Wayne Pivac. "He's been leaving the team room at 9.30 to 10pm each night. He's doing his homework and everything Alun Wyn Jones does.”

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Progress, then.

Once, on tours back in the day, when certain Wales players left the team room at 9.30pm it was to head into town for some rest and relaxation that possibly involved the odd wine gum or two.

Wales have invested in the future by playing Lewis-Hughes and the signs are that he will repay them handsomely, with the blindside being a player who relishes the physical side of the game. At 6ft 4in and a couple of Clarke’s Pies shy of 18st, the Cardiff Blue is a unit who has hit the ground running in international rugby.

He piled up 21 tackles on his debut against Scotland and hasn’t missed a beat in defence since.

The indicators are all positive: he’s going to be around the Test scene for a long time.

3. James Botham (v Georgia, November 21, 2020)

The exciting thing about the Botham player is just how much more is to come.

For Cardiff Blues, he’s emerged as a significant player at the breakdown, winning turnovers, and there have been also been ground-eating carries as well as hard-hitting defence.

Wales haven’t had much ball for anyone to carry this autumn, but the defensive side of Botham’s game has been impressive. Against England on Saturday, he levelled a white-shirted player early in the game and carried on in the same vein, finishing with 19 tackles and not a single one missed.

At one point the 22-year-old could be seen trying to galvanise the rest of the home forwards.

His opposite number Sam Underhill had a strong game and was a deserved man of the match, but Botham’s effort augured well. He’s only going to get better.

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2. Louis Rees-Zammit (v France, October 24, 2020)

Some young players freeze when asked to step onto the big stage.

Not this lad.

He had 19 minutes off the bench on his debut against France and managed to fit in a gliding run down the left that hinted at the kind of pace defenders dread.

a man with a football ball: Louis Rees-Zammit of Wales © Huw Evans Picture Agency Louis Rees-Zammit of Wales

Then against Georgia there was a break out from deep which saw the youngster leave a trail of players in his slipstream. Let’s filch an old quote and say Rees went one way, Zammit went the other, with a number of eastern Europeans left holding the hyphen.

But his effort against England was arguably the most encouraging of the lot, with the 19-year-old working tirelessly in defence while still coming up with glimpses of quality in attack.

He’s a player Wales are excited by.

And it’s not hard to see why.

Out of the rubble of defeat and disappointment in 2020, Welsh rugby has found a young player who’s offering a reason to believe.

1. Johnny Williams (v Georgia, November 21, 2020)

Read the words of Wayne Pivac, talking about Williams: “He's a big, strong guy and we think he could do a role for us similar to what Hadleigh Parkes did but he's actually got a little bit more X-factor about him, so he's another one that we think deserves his opportunity.”

Call that a glowing endorsement.

Williams performed soundly when making his bow, giving Wales go-forward, and against England he again stood tall, with his highlights reel including a try and uncompromising tackles that hit Billy Vunipola and Jonny May back behind the gain-line.

There’s always a danger in getting carried away by a couple of bright performances, but Williams looks the part.

Potentially, he could establish himself as a key figure in the Wales back-line for years.

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