Over the next 12 months there will be an unprecedented amount of international rugby, with Wales playing up to 14 tests up to the end of August next year.
An extended Autumn programme will see Wayne Pivac’s squad play a warm-up game, complete the 2020 Six Nations against Scotland and then play four games as part of an eight-team exhibition tournament, before the 2021 Six Nations starts in February.
There could then be a two or three test series somewhere next summer while the British and Irish Lions tour South Africa, with all of the above being Coronavirus dependent, of course.
That means that with injuries and team rotation there may well be a number of opportunities for players to challenge for international honours over the next 12 months, starting with how they perform in the next two weeks as the Guinness Pro14 returns.
I’ve had a look at which Cardiff Blues players may have an eye on breaking into Pivac’s squad during the coming weeks and months.
At loosehead, Rhys Carre was the regular backup to Wyn Jones during last year’s World Cup, but back at Cardiff Blues he will be keen on nailing down the number one jersey for John Mulvihill and pushing on to do the same under Wayne Pivac.
Challenging him at club level will be Corey Domachowski who impressed during the first half of the season before Christmas, and will be keen to catch the eye or take advantage if injury befalls Jones, Carre, Nicky Smith or Rob Evans.
On the tighthead, Dillon Lewis continues to develop into a high quality prop. Still only 24 he has 26 Wales caps to his name but now needs to graduate from a future star into a strong scrummaging first choice option, rather than someone who makes an impact in the last 20 minutes of games.
After injuries have had an impact on his game time over the last two years, Cory Hill will be keen to re-establish himself as an international quality lock and reclaim the spot in the Wales starting XV alongside Alun Wyn Jones.
Hopefully his drive to do that will inspire Seb Davies who posted some much improved showings before the season was suspended ahead of lockdown and is at a point in his career where he will either kick on and become a regular in Wales squads, or plateau and remain a club level squad player.
A highly competitive position in the Cardiff Blues squad, and even more competitive position when it comes to the Wales squad, it’s going to take some excellent performances to get ahead of the crowd here.
Josh Navidi is probably the only player in the squad at the moment who can realistically be more confident about being selected than not.
Of the others Shane Lewis-Hughes got a first taste of a Wales camp when selected by Wayne Pivac in his wider squad to play the Barbarians last November, and if he keeps up the form he showed over the last festive period then he will be difficult to ignore.
Sam Moore is a bit of an unknown quantity, having not played much due to injury over the last two years, but a big carrying 21-year-old number eight will be hard to ignore in a country that doesn’t produce too many in that mould.
Meanwhile Ellis Jenkins is hoping to be back on the field before Christmas and if he manages to return to a level that is even close to where he was before suffering his long-term knee injury then you’d expect him to be on the Wales radar once again.
There’s only two names at half-back that need to be mentioned when it comes to international recognition at Cardiff Blues; Tomos Williams and Jarrod Evans.
For Williams his place in the squad alongside Rhys Webb and Gareth Davies is almost assured, but it’s a case of proving that he is the right man to wear the number nine jersey ahead of the Ospreys and Scarlets men in what is going to be a high quality battle over the next few years.
In Evans’ case he is almost certain to be selected too, especially with Gareth Anscombe and Rhys Patchell’s ongoing injury issues, but will be keen to prove he is worthy of more than cameo appearances of a few minutes and can compete with Dan Biggar to wear the coveted red number 10 jersey.
In the centres all eyes will be on the recovery of Willis Halaholo and whether he will come back fit and firing after the knee injury that robbed him of making a first Wales appearance against Barbarians last November.
With Hadleigh Parkes moving on and Jon Davies edging towards the back end of his career, as well as struggling with injury himself, the Welsh midfield is in a state of flux and there is a great opportunity for Halaholo to take his dancing feet to the top level.
Perhaps a wildcard to keep an eye on though is Ben Thomas. He had a solid breakthrough season in the Cardiff Blues first team after getting his chance before Christmas, and additional playmakers in the back line is something that is likely to suit the attacking style of Pivac and Stephen Jones.
If Thomas keeps kicking on then an opportunity might present itself, especially if there is a tour to a tier two nation next summer, and impressing on those can open plenty of doors. Just ask Josh Navidi!
This area of the field is probably second only to back row in terms of strength in depth at both Cardiff Blues and Wales, although in Josh Adams we have the number one choice in both first teams, and one of the best wingers in the world at the moment.
Hopefully putting an end to a run of bad luck that has seen him pick up an injury every time he has been in line to challenge for a spot in Wales’ matchday 23, Owen Lane will be keen to keep up his remarkable try scoring record for Cardiff Blues and join Adams in the national side’s back three.
Then on the fringes of the Wales squad, Hallam Amos will want to upgrade from solid back-up option to the likes of Leigh Halfpenny and Liam Williams, to challenging for a spot in his own right, after a solid first season at the club.
Finally, Aled Summerhill is, in my eyes, the best uncapped winger in Wales at the moment. If he keeps taking his opportunities and scoring tries then an international call-up could be on the horizon.