Wales set to unleash ‘new JPR’ in summer tour squad
WALES are being urged to take a teenage full-back on tour next month for the first time since JPR Williams almost half a century ago.
Rhun Williams has emerged as a contender on the strength of his debut season for Cardiff Blues at 19 – the same age as his famous predecessor when Wales unleashed him on the world stage in Argentina in 1968.
“I’ll be amazed if Rhun is not in the squad,’’ Blues chairman Peter Thomas told The Rugby Paper. “He is a special player. This tour is the perfect opportunity to give new blood a chance.”
Williams has already been involved with the full Wales squad. They called him in to train with the senior players days before he made his PRO12 debut for the Blues against Treviso on November 4.
Wales name their squad on Tuesday for the South Pacific trip needing to fill large holes in several positions, not least at full-back with Leigh Halfpenny and Liam Williams on Lions duty in New Zealand.
Williams is not the only novice under consideration. Adam Beard, the Ospreys’ 21-year-old, 6ft 8in lock, is also in the running for the matches against Tonga and Samoa.
Keelan Giles and Steff Evans, by some distance the best uncapped wings in Wales, can expect to make the belated bows denied them during the Six Nations.
Ospreys scrum-half Tom Habberfield is another of the new brigade pushing for selection in a position headed by Gareth Davies in the absence of the Lionsbound Rhys Webb. Habberfield’s ability to double up as a wing, where he appeared for the Ospreys yesterday, strengthens his claim.
Wales are expected to pick all those senior players who missed the Lions cut, including Jamie Roberts, thereby surrounding the newcomers with hard-nosed experience. They failed to do that in Japan during the last Lions tour four years ago and paid the price, scraping home in the first Test at Osaka before being outplayed 23-8 in Tokyo seven days later.