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Sport Welsh rugby's winners and losers as overlooked back-rowers make Wales case to Pivac

13:16  06 december  2021
13:16  06 december  2021 Source:   walesonline.co.uk

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It was a slightly quieter week in Welsh rugby, with neither the Scarlets or Cardiff in action after a nightmarish week or so getting back from South Africa.

Thankfully, they're now back closer to home - even if there are more complications to come in the form of European fixtures this weekend.

But elsewhere, there was still Welsh interest in the last weekend.

Here's the winners and losers...

Read more: Get the latest Welsh rugby news, interviews and analysis right here

Winners

Jac Morgan, Morgan Morris and Tommy Reffell

All three of these back-rowers have yet to feature in a Welsh squad to date, but how much longer will that continue?

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Former Scarlet Morgan continues to shine with superlative performance after superlative performance for the Ospreys, while team-mate Morris in Swansea has been the best performing Welsh No. 8 on the domestic scene for some time.

Saturday's win over Ulster only cemented that, with Morgan and Morris to the fore once again in front of the watching Wayne Pivac.

As for Reffell, he only made a cameo for Leicester Tigers as they edged past defending champions Gloucester to open up a solid lead at the top of the Gallagher Premiership.

While 20 minutes at the end of a tough encounter - offering a solid ending to the game having replaced an out-of-sorts Springbok No. 8 Jasper Wiese - wasn't the most eye-catching contribution Reffell will make this season, the former Wales U20s captain can take comfort that he's playing an important role in a dominant team right now.

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Louis Rees-Zammit

Match-winning salvos aside, it could have been argued that Rees-Zammit didn't exactly shine in the autumn campaign.

Compared to his more rounded back-three colleagues, it's hard to make the point that the young winger contributed around the park in the manner Josh Adams, Liam Williams or Johnny McNicholl did - as sacrilegious as that might be to suggest.

However, on Friday night, he showed more promising signs in his all-round game.

As well as dealing with Bristol's world-beater Semi Radradra well enough, he also claimed one testing cross-field kick from Wales team-mate Sheedy to extinguish a Bristol attack.

His own work with the boot helped to pin back the Bears and forced them to play from deep.

All in all, he can have plenty to be happy about.

Bradley Roberts

Ulster may have gone down to the Ospreys on Saturday, but one man in their ranks could at least take some solace in perhaps edging an international selection clash.

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Bradley Roberts is the latest hooker to be called up by Wayne Pivac and Saturday saw him go up another hooker to have been capped by the Wales coach.

The Ulster number two took the fight to Ospreys' hooker Sam Parry, just about edging the battle with some explosive carrying.

With a move to Wales now on the cards if he's to continue his Test career, we could be seeing more of these little battles in the future.

Losers

Dean Ryan

Wayne Pivac once said, while in charge of the Scarlets, that it takes three years for a coach to really hit his straps on the club scene.

He knew what he was talking about as well, having just won a PRO12 title in his third campaign in Llanelli. The previous season's winners, Connacht, also won the title under a coach, Pat Lam, in his third year.

So Dragons fans might have been forgiven for thinking this would be the season that Dean Ryan's side kicked on from two seasons of steady growth into something that brought about more than promising performances and the odd victory.

However, that's not the case so far - with six defeats in seven this term.

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Ryan's task isn't an easy one - with the director of rugby admitting that the Gwent side simply don't have the resources to live with the pace and power of teams when they're not fully-stacked, with the Dragons' depth often laid bare when a couple of injuries pile up.

However, those are the cards he's been dealt and, having shipped 66 points in their two games since the autumn internationals, Ryan will know that he needs to find some way of turning it into a winning hand.

Callum Sheedy

It's been something of a frustrating season for Sheedy to date.

Bristol's form has fallen off a cliff, with only the fact that Bath can't buy a win right now keeping them off the foot of the Gallagher Premiership table.

And even when he linked up with Wales in the autumn, all we saw of the playmaker was a brief cameo against Fiji.

Friday night's clash with Gloucester at Kingsholm was perhaps a lesson in where the Bears have gone off the rails this year, with the Cherry and Whites handing them a lesson in game management.

Where Gloucester were smart, Bristol were naive and disjointed. At times, it looks like the plan is get the ball to one of their numerous world-class players and just hope for the best.

That's not an easy environment for a fly-half to shine, so it's understandable that Sheedy's performances are a little mixed. He set up a try with a well executed cross-kick, but some of his kicking off the tee was a little wayward.

That cameo against Fiji showed there's still a playmaker capable of moving talented backlines around, but Bristol's struggles remain a frustration for the 26-year-old.

He's not one for backing down though.

"Our own errors cost us tonight," he said defiantly afterwards. "There were big moments where we made the wrong decision. We just weren't good enough.

"We need to take a long, hard look at ourselves because how many times can we keep saying we weren't good enough.

"It's tough to take. We left tries out there. How many times can we keep saying we're going to take the learnings?

"We're as frustrated as anyone, but we're working hard to make it click and we're not as far away as it looks."

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