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Sport The unluckiest rugby players in Wales today as youngsters, Grand Slam winners and British Lion left gutted

22:55  07 june  2021
22:55  07 june  2021 Source:   walesonline.co.uk

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According to a recent study covering 18,000 people, the surest way to achieve happiness is to lower expectations.

Let’s hope the likes of Jac Morgan and Tommy Reffell took heed, then.

Doing so might have lessened their disappointment today at being left out of the Wales squad for the summer Tests against Argentina and Canada. Cushioned the blows and all that.

There are plenty of others in the same position.

For while there was deserved acknowledgement of the five uncapped players Wayne Pivac named in his panel for the July games, there was just as much comment on the unfortunates who’ve been knocking on the door only to find the said portal stubbornly refusing to open.

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Here are those who missed out despite being touted as potential candidates for Pivac’s group.

Jac Morgan

He’s been one of Welsh rugby’s players of the season. With a low centre of gravity that allows him to win turnovers, the Scarlet is also capable of immense tackling performances — ask Connacht, against whom Morgan came up with 30 hits in a single game in Galway last autumn. He also has a mental steel about him that ensures he doesn’t go missing in matches. He has been developing his carrying game and is a leader.

Why has he missed out then? Because selection is subjective and evidently Pivac and Jonathan Humphreys prefer the claims of James Botham and Taine Basham at this point.

Both of those are excellent players.

Of Morgan, Pivac said: “We’ve been tracking him. He’s a good solid player but he’s new to club rugby at the top level

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"The other boys have got a year or two on him. In our opinion, they are a slight bit ahead in terms of experience at this level of the game. He’s going to have to keep working hard."

To many eyes, Morgan is likely to appear more than merely a good solid player.

Pivac’s point about others being a shade more experienced in senior rugby than Morgan is a fair one, but he’s had a breakthrough campaign and can count himself unlucky. He’ll be pushing 24 come the next World Cup and would have benefited from being around the Wales squad this time.

That said, don’t expect him to go away.

a man with a football ball: Jac Morgan has had an outstanding season for the Scarlets © Huw Evans Agency Jac Morgan has had an outstanding season for the Scarlets

Tommy Reffell

Much of the above applies to Reffell.

The former Wales U20s captain is widely seen as one of the most accomplished breakdown operators in English rugby. When he locks over the ball, it sometimes appears the only way of getting him off it might be to explode a few shells and send in the infantry.

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Against Worcester recently his breakdown work was the difference between Leicester Tigers winning and losing.

Wales need to be careful as Reffell was said to be on England’s radar last summer.

It wouldn’t be a good look to lose a tough-as-teak player whose quality appears obvious.

The other side of the coin is that they have huge depth at openside.

Owen Watkin

Here’s Pivac’s take on Watkin: "He’s had some niggles. I’ve had a chat to Owen.

"He’s a player who will benefit from a big off season. We need to see a bit more out of him in attack. It’s an opportunity to learn about some of the others.

"Certainly, he knows if he shows the right form, the autumn’s just around the corner."

Watkin has had a hamstring injury but it’s not seen as serious and he’s been training with the Ospreys.

In February, he saved Wales from defeat at Murrayfield with a wonderful last-gasp tackle on Scotland's Duhan van der Merwe in the final seconds.

But it seems Wales are not seeing what they want to see in him.

But anyone who watched him drive his club to victory over Leinster in March, with 15 runs and seven defenders beaten, allied to outstanding defence, will know he still has much to offer.

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Nick Tompkins, who didn’t operate at his very best while on loan to the Dragons, can count himself a shade fortunate to have retained his place in Pivac’s squad.

Keiran Williams

He’s had a head injury and is working his way through protocols.

Really, the knock came at the wrong time.

He’s an exciting player who is missed at the Ospreys when he’s off limits.

Would he have made the cut had he been fit and firing? It’s hard to say, but anyone betting against it would be a brave individual indeed.

Dane Blacker

He had a burst of spring form that started a bandwagon rolling for him, with his efforts against the Dragons and Cardiff Blues exceptionally worthy of praise.

But he’s had a foot injury.

The Scarlets were hopeful it might have cleared up by this weekend.

Whatever, the young scrum-half will have to bide his time, with Rhodri Williams filling up the No. 9 places alongside Tomos Williams and Kieran Hardy.

Rob Evans

A Grand Slammer from 2019, he hasn’t long returned to action after a concussion but has shown in glimpses that his work may not be done at Test level.

Maybe Pivac wants to see more before summoning Evans once again.

But the west Walian has considerable experience and could have been useful to have around this summer.

Seb Davies

A couple of years ago this guy was described by one TV commentator as Wales’ answer to Ireland's James Ryan.

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And most who saw Davies play against Munster recently would have surely been impressed. Tackles, ground-eating charges, eye-catching offloads, unstinting work in all areas — his was the display of a thoroughly modern lock.

But it’s a strange one.

Davies found it hard to convince Warren Gatland of his qualities and evidently Wayne Pivac is taking time to truly appreciate him as well. Some have wondered in the past whether the 6ft 8in, 18st 10lb forward was aggressive enough or managed to consistently put a stamp on games.

Whatever, if Wales haven’t told him why he’s being left out, they should do.

He can start to do something about it then.

Mat Protheroe

Those who were looking forward to having to hold tight while one of Welsh rugby’s most exciting players did his stuff in a Test jersey this summer will be disappointed not to see him included in Pivac’s squad.

A groin injury has hampered him in recent times.

We’ll never know if he would have made Pivac’s panel otherwise.

Lloyd Williams

He was Wales’ third choice scrum-half for much of the Six Nations and he actually started against England last autumn.

Williams hasn’t done anything wrong since.

But Wales want to assess Rhodri Williams as they try to work out their pecking order heading for the next World Cup.

Williams was called by Pivac on Monday morning to explain his thinking.

Rhys Webb

Webb has had a tough season, starting just once for Wales in the autumn, dropped for the Six Nations and injured when he’d begun to find form with the Ospreys.

Is it the end for him at Test level?

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Some will jump to that conclusion, with Gareth Davies, Tomos Williams, Kieran Hardy and potentially Rhodri Williams and Lloyd Williams above him in the Wales mix.

But never say never. Pivac is assessing Rhodri Williams, and Webb on his day is still capable of performing strongly. Pivac has shown he is prepared to pick players on form rather than worry too much about age by summoning two 33-year-olds, Dan Lydiate and Josh Turnbull, this year.

Webb is going to need something special, mind.

WillGriff John

He’s a big lump who can anchor a scrum.

Once, he would have been considered the ideal sort for games against Argentina.

But the stars just don’t seem to align for him when it comes to picking up his first cap.

Corey Domachowski

He’s had a solid season and received no shortage of column inches in newspapers and on websites of late.

But Wales seem to want to extra.

The Ospreys have built a reputation for sound scrummaging this season and it’s their three looseheads Pivac has turned to.

Who are the unluckiest players to be omitted from the Wales squad? Have your say in the comments below

Rhys Carre

It’s fair to say we are still waiting to see the big man deliver on the immense promise he showed at the 2019 World Cup. Turn back the clock 19 months and Stuart Barnes was touting Carre as a potential Lions Test starter. Now the giant front rower can’t get into Wales’ squad even while Wyn Jones is away with the best of British and Irish rugby.

That said, the 23-year-old Carre is still young for a prop, and having Dai Young as coach should aid his development.

James Ratti

He’s made big progress this season, and can cover lock and middle of the back row, but this round of Test matches has come too soon for him.

A big campaign next season, perhaps as a ball-carrying No. 8, could put him into some sort of contention.

Aneurin Owen

A class act, but young.

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The Dragon wears the look of a player who could feature a lot for Wales in the years ahead. He has an old head on a 20-year-old’s shoulders, makes good decisions, fronts up in defence and has instinctive skills that buy him time. When he played against the Ospreys recently, there were a number of fine performance on the day, but none as good as the one dished up by Owen.

For him, it’s a question of continuing to fulfil his potential. His time will come.

Will Griffiths

Wales have him on their radar with the former Swansea player having been among those called in for fitness testing recently.

It was always going to be a big shout for him to make the senior squad at this stage.

But boasting a big work ethic that sees him unfailingly front up in defence and attack, and commanding height that makes him a quality line-out option, he is a player who has a lot going for him.

Watch this space.

Morgan Morris

Another player who’d have had to come from nowhere to make Pivac’s squad.

But he’s been excellent for the Ospreys this season, up there as one of their players of the campaign.

He has a wide skill set, can play across the back row and doesn’t stop working. If his side need a turnover in the dying minutes, he is one of the players they look to for the goods to be delivered. If they need a defence-splitting charge, he is capable of providing it. If they need a last-ditch tackle he's often the man for the job.

And he makes few mistakes.

In short, he appears to have a Test mindset.

Again, Wales need to tell him what more he needs to do to earn a call-up.

Rio Dyer

His pace makes him a lethal weapon in attack.

Does he still need to bank more experience and add to his game?

Wales seem to think so.

Morgan Jones

The tall Scarlet is one of a fresh generation of young locks in Welsh rugby.

Jones has a presence about him and has made a lot of progress over the past nine months.

For him, patience is required.

Rhys Davies

It’s a similar story for Davies at the Ospreys.

He’s played a lot of rugby this term and ticked multiple boxes along the way.

In some games he’s been outstanding.

Both he and Morgan Jones should be on Pivac’s radar moving forward.

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