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Now that Wayne Pivac has his feet under the table – only for the table to be upturned by Ireland –Robin Davey argues it is time for the Wales coach to make some changes. That should mean, he says, a call for teenage wing Louis Rees-Zammit.
Welcome to the Wales job, Wayne Pivac!
After a welcome easy ride first time out in the Six Nations against chopping blocks Italy, reality kicked for the Wales coach against Ireland.
The outcome at the second time of asking was vastly different, not that Pivac was the first man to lead a Wales team to windy Dublin and feel what it’s like to be blown away.
Now comes his third test in the tournament, and it’s another tough ask against France, who appear to have rediscovered their joie de vivre under a new coaching group. The French are also showing signs of the style which made them such an irresistible attraction before stagnation set in.
Pivac can go one of two ways in his selection for this one – give the side pretty much another chance after the Irish defeat, or, he can introduce some excitement.
He can make more than the odd change and show he can be bold by matching up to a French team which is now playing it a bit more fast and loose.
This is not the first time I’ve advocated that Pivac gives teenage wing sensation Louis Rees-Zammit an opportunity, but the Penarth-born youngster keeps scoring tries for Gloucester, nabbing another one last Friday making it 11 in 15 appearances..
That is pretty remarkable by any standards – never mind at top club level in a demanding league, so he’s shown he’s got what it takes.
Wales have got problems out wide in attack and defence. George North is clearly out of sorts despite a manful defence of him by Neil Jenkins the other day, while Liam Williams is still not fit and the jury is still out on Johnny McNicholl.
Josh Adams is expected to make it after his injury against Ireland and this try-scoring machine is a certainty on one wing.
On the other flank, Pivac ought to go for Rees-Zammit and give North a break.
And though it would appear pretty harsh to omit Nick Tompkins after his try-scoring debut against Italy, Owen Watkin is fit again after a lengthy injury absence and made a try-scoring return for the Ospreys against Ulster on Saturday.
He looked quite impressive too, so I’d call him up alongside the ever-reliable Hadleigh Parkes.
And at scrum-half Gareth Davies should return for Tomos Williams – a bright talent and an attacking threat, but found wanting a little in defence against Ireland. Davies remains perhaps the better all-round player.
Up front, Ross Moriarty has now completely thrown off the virus which laid him low post-World Cup, causing him to lose a stone in weight, and is clearly in form and relishing the rough and tumble exchanges.
On that basis, he merits a call-up in the Wales back row to face France. The only question would be who should he replace – his Dragons teammate Aaron Wainwright or Taulupe Faletau?
A case could be made out for him to step in at flanker or No 8.
Wainwright has had a meteoric rise and has been a terrific asset to the Dragons and Wales for someone who made a late start to the game and is now a real line-out option for Wales as well.
So is Faletau, now finally back in harness after a nightmare two years, needing successive arm operations as well as suffering a knee problem. Clearly, he is one of the finest players in the world in his position.
Louis Rees-Zammit (19) was at it again for Gloucester last night.
Still feels like a bit of a missed opportunity that Wales didn’t cap him against Italy a fortnight ago but surely his time is coming soon.pic.twitter.com/8qcxmfKgFV
— Scouted Rugby (@scoutedrugby) February 15, 2020
So should Wainwright, who has fallen away a little recently, make way for Moriarty or should it be Faletau, not quite at his best yet after his long absence?
I’ll leave that one to Pivac, though I suspect it will be neither and Moriarty will have to be content with a place on the bench again.
Changes can, however, be expected in the front row for while the scrum has improved it’s not quite where it should be.
Rob Evans, a pretty gnarled prop, could well be worth a recall while at tight-head it’s pretty much a toss-up between current incumbent Dillon Lewis, Leon Brown and Will GriffJohn.
Saturday’s clash will witness a quick-fire return to the Principality Stadium for Shaun Edwards, who worked so well with Wales in harness with Warren Gatland.
Incredibly, he was somehow let go by Wales and is now defence coach with France where he appears to have struck up an immediate rapport with the players and new head coach Fabien Galthie.
Edwards will make it tough for Wales, for sure, though he would have been unhappy with France conceding three tries against Italy last time out.
While he’d like to put one over on his former team, he says he won’t celebrate out of sheer respect for the players he used to coach and the country which made him so welcome.
What an absolute legend Shaun Edwards is! Would have loved to play for him, you can’t not like the bloke! Here he is doing an interview in French and he’s nailed their mannerisms already with the odd shoulder shrug! He’s going to make a huge difference to the @FranceRugby team! pic.twitter.com/2SnUJAfHxm
— Andy Goode (@AndyGoode10) November 27, 2019
Nevertheless, it adds appeal to a fixture where Wales have been dominant over the past decade.
In fact, they have won eight of the last nine matches between the sides stretching back to that infamous World Cup semi-final in Auckland in 2011 where skipper Sam Warburton was sent off.
The last three encounters have been particularly close though – Wales edging home 20-19 in last year’s World Cup in Japan following 24-19 and 14-13 victories.
The current French team look far more like it and though the Six Nations is just two games’ old two players in particular have lit up the tournament so far. They are French scrum half Antoine Dupont, who has shown some brilliant individual touches, and No.8 Gregory Alldritt, a terrific back row forward.
So, it has all the makings of a cracker – provided Pivac sparks a spirit of adventure with a few much needed changes.
The post Time To Let The French Have It . . . Unleash Louis Rees-Zammit appeared first on Dai Sport.
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