Delme Parfitt

Wales On Sunday - - SPORT ON SUNDAY -

IT would once have been con­sid­ered sac­ri­lege to sug­gest Leigh Half­penny should be left out of the Wales team. But what odds – on the ba­sis of what we have seen this au­tumn – War­ren Gat­land will see it as a vi­able op­tion come next year’s Six Na­tions? In all truth, he has to. Half­penny is a won­der­ful player, as hum­ble an in­di­vid­ual as you could wish to meet and was named by re­cently by Gat­land as the most pro­fes­sional person the Kiwi has worked with since he took charge in 2008.

But when it comes to the fluid, in­stinc­tive counter-at­tack­ing threat that mod­ern full­backs must of­fer – and es­pe­cially in a Wales team that is fi­nally em­brac­ing a change in VIEW FROM THE PRESS BOX style – the former Toulon man is presently com­ing up short.

The in­tent has been there from Half­penny this last month. He’s at­tempted to run the ball back at var­i­ous op­po­si­tion on nu­mer­ous oc­ca­sions.

Yet he very rarely seems to go through gaps. He is not the sort to set alarm bells ring- ing when he em­barks on a run from deep.

Half­penny, of course, has a whole load of other qual­i­ties. De­fen­sively he is solid, un­der the high ball he is re­li­able, his po­si­tional sense is spot on and we know that as a goal­kick­ing marks­man he has few equals any­where on the planet.

But Gat­land needs that strike-run­ning ca­pa­bil­ity from No.15 if Wales are to be­come more po­tent in at­tack, some­thing they ob­vi­ously need to do.

So who do you pick to in the back three to face Scot­land in the open­ing match of the Six Na­tions?

I would go with Liam Wil­liams at full-back, Ge­orge North – as­sum­ing he is fit again – on one wing and Hal­lam Amos on the other.

Wil­liams we know all about. He is un­pre­dictable and has a proven track record for slith­er­ing through the tight­est de­fences.

North we know all about. Fit and fir­ing he re­mains a class above his ri­vals for the jer­sey and be­fore he sus­tained his cur­rent knee in­jury he was go­ing great gun for Northamp­ton.

Amos? The Dragons trainee doc­tor has come of age in this cam­paign.

He be­gan it with plenty of ques­tion marks around whether he had what it takes to per­form con­sis­tently at in­ter­na­tional level. But Amos has shown he does have what it takes with some in­tel­li­gent, eye-catch­ing dis­plays.

Back at the start of last month, most of the ex­cite­ment was around what St­eff Evans might bring to the in­ter­na­tional party.

Evans’ su­perb form for the Scar­lets had peo­ple hail­ing him as a po­ten­tial weapon for Gat­land. But while he has given it his all, his lim­i­ta­tions have been ex­posed.

He lacks out-and-out gas, which was more ap­par­ent than ever against South Africa, and he gets turned over too eas­ily.

Evans does have a Test fu­ture, but he is not ready to be a go-to player for Gat­land yet, not by a long chalk.

Half­penny has been just that for many a sea­son now, but just as Jamie Roberts has found him­self a vic­tim of a chang­ing out­look style-wise, so too is his former Blues team mate un­der pres­sure to adapt, and quickly.

Gat­land, with some­one like Dan Big­gar in the side, is not bound to pick Half­penny for his goal­kick­ing.

So, the coach must think long and hard about whether he is still the best full-back op­tion all things con­sid­ered.

With North, Wil­liams and Amos at his dis­posal, it’s highly ques­tion­able whether that will be the case come the Six Na­tions.

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