WELSH RUGBY’S NEW HERO
PARKES SHINES AS AUTUMN SERIES ENDS ON A HIGH AGAINST ’BOKS
HADLEIGH Parkes said he felt humbled and honoured after scoring two tries in a “dream” debut for Wales against South Africa. The New Zealand-born centre made an immediate impact just hours after completing his three-year qualification period to become eligible to play for his adopted country.
The 30-year-old former sheep farmer scored twice in the first half and was named man of the match as Wales completed their autumn series with a 24-22 win at Cardiff’s Principality Stadium.
Parkes, who became the first player to score twice on his Wales debut since George North in 2010, said: “It’s been amazing, a dream come true. I never thought this day would come and I’m just extremely humbled by the opportunity.
“It’s a huge privilege and an honour to come out here and play in front of a fantastic stadium and a fantastic crowd. It’s a lovely country. You dream of these kinds of days, so I’m very happy.”
And coach Warren Gatland was delighted with Parkes’ bow even though Wales wobbled when 21-3 ahead just before half-time before a Leigh Halfpenny penalty put an end to the Springboks’ fightback.
“He has done great,” said Gatland. “It was a fantastic pick-up for his first try and a brilliant pass from Taulupe for the second one. He has done well. He has carried, he’s put a couple of nice little kicks through. He’s a 100 per cent he was saying in the changing room, so he’s pretty happy with himself.
“Even though it was his first cap, we had said to him you need to have some leadership out there in terms of your voice and taking control.
“He has had a lot of rugby under his belt and he’s familiar with a lot of those Scarlets players who were out there.
“We said just make the most of the opportunity and he did that.”
Full reaction, plus views from Barry John and Graham Price: Sport pullout
All smiles... Hadleigh Parkes can’t believe it after scoring the first of his two tries on his Wales debut against South Africa yesterday PICTURE: Huw Evans Agency