The top Wales rugby players in exile and how being away will affect their World Cup chances


Perhaps the biggest positive to come out of Wales’ unbeaten summer series against the Springboks and Argentina is a hitherto strength in depth that piles pressure onto Warren Gatland’s stay-at-home old guard.

Much has been made of the work the likes of Justin Tipuric and Leigh Halfpenny have ahead of them with the 2019 Rugby World Cup starting to loom on the horizon.

At least they remain very much under the Welsh microscope, plying their trade in the regional game here.

But what about those outside of Wales?

We look at 10 English-based players and their chances of being on the plane heading to Japan next autumn.

It doesn’t include the likes of Alex Cuthbert and Ashley Beck, who by moving to the Gallagher Premiership and not making the 60-cap threshold, have effectively ruled themselves out of the running.

And the same, of course, applies to Toulon’s Rhys Webb.

OWEN WILLIAMS

Owen Williams was at the heart of Wales’ changing game-plan

Could well be renamed Austin Powers in years to come as the 2017-18 rugby season was one where the Gloucester player was the International Man of Mystery.

After making his Wales debut last summer against Tonga, the 26-year-old was picked out as the one to give Wales a badly needed playmaker in the No.12 jersey.

Did very little wrong in against the Wallabies and All Blacks last autumn in that role only to be overlooked for the Six Nations and left high and dry on three caps.

Verdict: One of the players that seems to be paying the hefty price for plying his trade in England.

Could well be getting more game time at Gloucester next season in the No.12 jersey, but you feel it needs some superlative displays for the Cherry & Whites or a catastrophic injury crisis to force his way back into the international reckoning.

DAN BIGGAR

The 62-times capped No.10 has still to make his Northampton Saints debut after calling time this summer on a decade playing for the Ospreys.

While the 28-year-old was taken a little for granted during his time in Wales, he’s certainly made an instant impact at Franklin’s Gardens with Springboks scrum-half Cobus Reinach.

Dan Biggar has received glowing praise from his new half-back partner at Northampton Saints

“What a player he is!” Reinach told the Northampton Chronicle.

“He’s been showing everything he’s got in pre-season. He’s been running like a Kenyan, he’s got a passing game, he’s got a kicking game, he’s got a rugby head.

“He’s got so many international caps and he’s been showing us why he’s got them.”

Verdict: Despite now playing in a team that really struggled last term, Biggar could well find a new lease of life in England and having been Gatland’s go-to man in the past, you feel it could well be business as usual in the Land of the Rising Sun. That said, the performances of Rhys Patchell and Gareth Anscombe in recent times mean he is under more pressure than he has been for some time, with Gatland warning his move across the bridge could have put his place in jeopardy.

LUKE CHARTERIS

There was more than a few raised eyebrows when the giant Bath lock was handed the chance to add to his 74 caps this summer.

Last season at The Rec was dogged by niggling injuries and at 35 years of age, he had not played a Test since facing France in the Six Nations in March, 2017.

But it all ended in disappointment as Premiership Rugby refused to sanction his release for the tour opener against South Africa, in Washington, and so the chance to rekindle his international career was thwarted.

Verdict: The emergence of Ospreys second row Adam Beard this summer, the industry of unsung Cory Hill, the return of Captain Marvel Alun Wyn Jones, the ball-carrying attributes of a fit-again Jake Ball and Seb Davies at the Blues, means it would take a minor miracle for Charteris to make it cap No.75.

JAMIE ROBERTS

A smiling Jamie Roberts in Bath

The 94-times capped Welsh medicine man is about to embark on a new chapter in his rugby career joining the heavily Welsh populated Bath stable.

Ended last season with some eye-catching displays for Harlequins, despite his west London employers struggling in the Premiership.

Welsh rugby star Jamie Roberts sings Tom Jones classic and nails it

Captained Wales on their 2017 summer Test series with Samoa and Tonga, but his last international outing was against the All Blacks in the autumn of that year.

Verdict: The 94-times capped Welsh centre didn’t feature in the 2018 Six Nations Championship, the first time in nine years he watched on from the sidelines.

And though recently revealing his desperation to pull on the red jersey again, the emergence of Hadleigh Parkes in the last eight months, the return of Lion king Jonathan Davies from injury and Scott Williams’ presence could well mean the international end for the 31-year-old.

He knows he needs a stunning season to have a hope, simple as that.

JOSH ADAMS

Last season’s joint top scorer in the Premiership has had something of an eventful six months on the Test scene since his debut in the Six Nations rout of Scotland in Cardiff.

Was caught on the hop defensively next time out against England when Jonny May crossed for a vital Red Rose try and never picked again until called up for the summer Test series.

Josh Adams of Wales races in to score
Wales wing Josh Adams races in to score his wonder try against Argentina this summer

Thought his hopes were dashed in adding to those two caps when Premiership Rugby refused to sanction his release. But he joined the tour for the final two Tests with Argentina when Steff Evans picked up a knee injury against the Springboks, and emphatically exorcised the ghosts of Twickenham.

Verdict: The Welsh wing berth may have the look of the M25 at rush hour but Adams showed against the Pumas he could well be worth persevering with.

Apart from a stunning solo try he proved something of a solid citizen in defence.

TAULUPE FALETAU

The world-class No.8 was given a whiff by Wales this summer after his exertions with the Lions and helping a struggling Bath end their Premiership campaign with a bang.

In his absence this summer Ross Moriarty was asked to fill the No.8 jersey for all three Tests.

There’s no sign of the Tongan-born torpedo heading back to Wales any time soon as in May this year the 27-year-old 72-times capped back-rower signed a new long-term contract with Bath.

Verdict: You feel if Gatland could get hold of a big comfy roll of Welsh-made cotton wool, he would have Faletau neatly wrapped up in it, only to unpack his colossus in time for the 2019 Rugby World Cup.

He really is that vital to the cause.

Rhys Priestland against Georgia

RHYS PRIESTLAND

Impressive performances for Bath earned Priestland a recall to the Welsh set-up for the 2017 autumn international camapign.

It was the first time since June 2016 the former Scarlets No.10 was back in the Welsh fold, and he made it to 50 caps with appearances against Georgia and the All Blacks.

But a hamstring injury just four minutes in Bath’s 35-17 defeat to the Scarlets in the Champions Cup meant the 31-year-old had to withdraw from the 2018 Six Nations squad.

Verdict: Priestland has confounded the critics before with his displays at the The Rec after being a target of the boo boys during the latter part of his time in Wales.

More impressive game time with Bath next season could well see another Welsh call-up, with the No.10 jersey anything but nailed down to date. He’s behind Biggar, Patchell and Anscombe in the pecking order though.

Wales prop Tomas Francis

TOMAS FRANCIS

The Exeter Chiefs tighthead was another who had to make a hasty change to his summer schedule after initially being withdrawn for the Test series with South Africa and Argentina, only to get game time on the Pumas leg of the trip when Samson Lee suffered a lower back injury.

His two appearances in June makes it 33 caps and counting for the 26-year-old.

More time on the field in the latter half of the season at Sandy Park certainly benefited the York-born front-rower.

Verdict: Cardiff Blues’ Dillon Lewis provided some welcome strength in depth to the No.3 jersey this summer and a fit-again Leon Brown at the Dragons could well provide further competition.

But Lee and Francis will take some shifting and barring injury would both be expected to be in Japan at the World Cup as things stand. He has to play regularly for Exeter in the coming months though, and he has to play well.

Read More

Welsh rugby news

LIAM WILLIAMS

It was something of a low key season for the former scaffolder after starring for the Lions in New Zealand.

It turned out to be an injury-plagued first campaign for new employers Saracens as a groin problem ruled him out for three months before a shoulder injury meant he had to watch the European giants lift the Premiership title from the stands.

Williams was rested for the summer tour along with the majority of the Welsh Lions.

Verdict: Despite seeing the emergence of Josh Adams and Hallam Amos into genuine back-three contenders and Steff Evans also throwing his hat into the Welsh ring, a fit-and-firing Williams is a shoo-in for Japan given his ability to fill the full-back and wing berths with aplomb. A starting place is not as certain as it once was, however.

THOMAS YOUNG

It continues to baffle many across in England how the 26-year-old can churn out stellar performances time and time again for Wasps in the Premiership, yet his international record reads just two caps against Tonga and Samoa in the summer of 2017.

Verdict: Young’s task of adding to those two caps has been made a whole lot harder after the summer despite the shock retirement of Lions skipper Sam Warburton.

Competition for the Welsh No.7 jersey is fiercest of any position and despite the retirement of Sam Warburton, Young is a comfortably behind Ellis Jenkins, James Davies, Justin Tipuric, Josh Navidi and even Ollie Griffiths in the eyes of Gatland.



Source link

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scarpenter - Page brought to you by S Carpenter