The Cardiff Blues players in contention for Wayne Pivac’s first Six Nations squad

Posted by

Wayne Pivac is set to name his first Wales Six Nations squad this week, with the tournament just over three weeks away from starting as Italy arrive in Cardiff on Saturday 1st February.

After a positive festive period a number of Cardiff Blues players have put their hands up for selection as young players come of age alongside a number of more experienced faces going through purple patches of form.

Starting up front and an outside contender for a spot among the loosehead prop ranks is Corey Domachowski. The 23-year-old has really stepped up in the absence of Rhys Carre and Gethin Jenkins to become first choice in the number one jersey for much of the early part of the season.

Unfortunately an untimely injury restricted his playing time over Christmas and New Year, and with the likes of Carre, Wyn Jones, Nicky Smith and Rob Evans all available for selection the youngster would be a surprise choice, but it is testament to his form that he is in the conversation.

On the other side of the scrum there will almost certainly be one Cardiff Blues player selected as Dillon Lewis returns to fitness after a strong showing during the World Cup in which his scrummaging had noticeably improved to complement his impressive work around the field.

The 24-year-old will likely make a playing comeback away at Leicester this weekend to ensure he is fit ahead of the Six Nations starting, but in his absence these last few weeks it has fallen to Scott Andrews to step up at the Arms Park and he has done so in impressive fashion.

A cornerstone of the best scrum in the Guinness Pro14 after seven rounds of the competition, Bubba is in arguably the best form of his career, and with Tomas Francis injured and Samson Lee struggling for consistency and fitness there is an opportunity for him to get the call at international level, although Leon Brown and WillGriff John will have something to say about that.

Behind them has been another player who is on the more experienced side but may be able to force his way into the Six Nations squad having trained with Wales ahead of the Barbarians game in November.

Josh Turnbull has been in terrific form packing down in the second row having added 5kg over the summer, while also performing well in his natural position of blindside flanker when called upon.

Josh Turnbull Wales

It is likely that Alun Wyn Jones, Adam Beard, Jake Ball and Cory Hill will be the four main lock options, but Turnbull may fancy his chances of getting in ahead of Bradley Davies if Wayne Pivac opts for five, particularly with his versatility allowing him to cover in the back row as well.

The back row will once again be one of the most hotly contested and debated positions in the Wales squad, despite the likes of Ellis Jenkins, James Davies and Ollie Griffiths suffering from injuries, but Cardiff Blues will be confident of at least one player being involved, and hopeful for another two.

Josh Navidi has made himself almost invaluable to the Wales squad over the last 18 months to two years, featuring right across the back row and impressing with his all-court game of carrying, tackling and working over the ball.

His name his essentially inked into any squad selection and he could be joined by Shane Lewis-Hughes who has really caught the eye over the festive period after being a surprise inclusion in Pivac’s squad for the Barbarians fixture back in November.

A man-of-the-match performance against Ospreys was followed up by a try-scoring outing against the Dragons, as his hard tackling and carrying ability alongside his lineout jumping make him a more than viable option on the blindside flank.

Will Boyde is another who has caught the eye in the early part of the season, becoming arguably the signing of the season across the Welsh regions with his work rate, versatility and leadership skills coming to the fore.

With Navidi, Aaron Wainwright, Taine Basham and Thomas Young offering similar sort of options he might find it tough to get the call in a crowded field though.

Into the backs and at half-back there are two definite selections as Tomos Williams and Jarrod Evans prepare to get call-ups and receive plenty of playing minutes throughout the tournament.

After playing second fiddle to Gareth Davies at the World Cup and despite Rhys Webb becoming available for selection again after confirming a move back to Ospreys next season, Williams has to now be the front runner to wear the nine jersey against Italy as the all-round best scrum-half in Wales.

Tomos Williams France

A place in the starting XV is not quite as obvious for Evans, with Dan Biggar in good form for Northampton and Sam Davies playing consistently well for Dragons, but if Pivac wants some attacking flair then the 23-year-old is the obvious choice to wear 10.

Outside them there are a number of tough decisions for the new Head Coach as centre becomes a position of real trouble thanks to the sidelining of Jon Davies and Owen Watkin exposing the real lack of midfield depth we have in Wales, particularly at outside centre.

Hadleigh Parkes is the only fit and obvious choice to get the call for the Six Nations squad, which might open the door for some left-field selections including that of young Cardiff Blues centre Ben Thomas, who has earned rave reviews at Pro14 and Challenge Cup level after stepping up from Cardiff RFC where he was equally lauded.

A fly-half by trade he has played exclusively at inside centre over the last season-and-a-half, where his playmaking and natural footballing ability have combined with a strong carrying game and improving defence to make him a glue-like figure in the midfield at the Arms Park.

There is even a question about whether he can switch to outside centre and while he may have the attributes to slot in as a Henry Slade-style 13, it would be a big ask to make your international debut in a key position that you are not familiar with.

In the back three there are two more definites for selection as Josh Adams and Owen Lane have both been in fine form for Cardiff Blues since returning from varying levels of Rugby World Cup action in December. There is a strong case to start them on each wing against Italy in a few weeks.

Adams has four tries in his five games so far across all competitions, while Lane has six in eight, and while both are candidates to switch to outside centre, when they are in such good form on the wing it would seem counter-intuitive to play them in equally unfamiliar positions at this level without getting a run at regional level first.

They could be joined by Cardiff Blues team-mate Hallam Amos who has forced his way properly back into contention with strong showings against the Dragons and particularly the Scarlets in recent weeks.

The 25-year-old faces stiff competition with Leigh Halfpenny in excellent form at full-back, Johnny McNicholl, Louis Rees-Zammit and Steff Evans putting their hands up out wide and Liam Williams and George North having plenty of international experience, but as another who could possibly slot in at outside centre his versatility may well play in his favour.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s