Pri­est­land can push for Wales re­call with form in Premier­ship

The Rugby Paper - - News - SHANE WIL­LIAMS

“Young is ready for Test rugby and Grif­fiths is a Wales back rower for the fu­ture”

SAM War­bur­ton’s in­jury is a huge blow for Wales. I thought he was out­stand­ing on the Li­ons tour and his dis­plays in the se­cond and third Tests were the per­fect way to re­spond to the crit­ics who ques­tioned him.

His ab­sence for the au­tumn clashes leaves a gap­ing hole for War­ren Gat­land, but as al­ways, one man’s mis­for­tune is an­other’s op­por­tu­nity. It’s an in­ter­est­ing co­nun­drum for War­ren to con­sider on the open­side and I hope Thomas Young and Ol­lie Grif­fiths can now be given a chance later this year. I think both are spe­cial young tal­ents who can be the fu­ture of the Wales team.

For so long now we’ve talked about the riches Wales have in com­pe­ti­tion for the red No.7 shirt. That re­mains the case, but with Sam now out un­til 2018 it means he, El­lis Jenk­ins and James Davies are all cur­rently on the side­lines. So too is Nic Cudd at the Dragons who I think is an un­der­rated per­former. Of course Justin Tipuric has started the sea­son from the off with the Ospreys and I’m sure he’ll start for Wales against Aus­tralia at Prin­ci­pal­ity Sta­dium on Novem­ber 11.

Pro­vid­ing there are no fur­ther in­juries, my back row to face the Wal­la­bies would be Dan Ly­di­ate at blind­side, Justin on the other flank and Taulupe Fale­tau at No 8.

Of course Dan has to come back from his long-term in­jury and prove with the Ospreys he can get back to his best. I think though that he’s more than ca­pa­ble of do­ing that and of course if Dan strug­gles with his fit­ness, Ross Mo­ri­arty is a more than de­cent op­tion.

Be­hind those guys though there are a few back row ques­tions marks. Who are go­ing to be the back-up op­tions? For me, Young and Grif­fiths should cer­tainly be in­volved.

The two play­ers won their first Wales caps in the sum­mer and I think they’re hugely tal­ented. I hon­estly think Young is ready for Test rugby al­ready. You could see from his per­for­mances for Wasps in Europe last sea­son that he is more than ca­pa­ble of star­ring at in­ter­na­tional level. Thomas was in­volved in last year’s Six Na­tions and if I’m hon­est, I was slightly sur­prised he wasn’t in­volved more in that tour­na­ment. I hope that changes this term and I think he’s the sort of player War­ren will like. He’ll cer­tainly be keep­ing up the pres­sure on Justin that’s for sure. The other one is Ol­lie and for him this au­tumn will be slightly dif­fer­ent. Af­ter fac­ing Samoa in the sum­mer, this sea­son is a chance for him to keep up his learn­ing and ex­pe­ri­ence play­ing with the best around. I think he’d have picked up so much from Sam had he been around, so that’s an­other rea­son why he’s a big loss. That said, I think Ol­lie will only im­prove in this cam­paign. I’ve no­ticed how much he’s grown phys­i­cally in the last six months or so and if he played for say the Scarlets, I think we’d be talk­ing about him a lot more.

For me he’s a Wales back rower of the fu­ture.

One more thing on Sam. I know Alun Wyn Jones cap­tained Wales last sea­son, but I was fully ex­pect­ing Sam to come back as leader this term. Now I ex­pect Alun to con­tinue in the role for the au­tumn and of course that’s no bad thing from a Welsh per­spec­tive, but on the field the ab­sence of a fit and fir­ing Sam is a real shame.

In one way though, if it al­lows ei­ther Ol­lie or Thomas to get a chance on the field – po­ten­tially against Georgia – it could work in Wales’ favour long term.

Test ready: Thomas Young

Im­prov­ing: Ol­lie Grif­fiths

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