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The Wales standby player for each position as squad leave in days and uncapped man deserves to be in the picture

You could only sympathize with poor John Rawlins after his experience as a tour call-up for the first Rugby World Cup.

Whisked to Australia at short notice — “just find your passport, grab a toothbrush and head for the airport, Mr Rawlins: there’s a taxi waiting for you outside” — the prop barely had time to take on board his first ‘G’day’ when disaster struck.

“Never in the history of modern sport can anyone have flown so far for so little,” wrote Ieuan Evans in his autobiography, Bread of Heaven. “After a 32-hour flight from London, John stepped off the plane in Brisbane where we were preparing to play England in the quarter-final. He went straight to the training ground, changed, and, after two minutes, he had turned a hamstring.”

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Then there was Jonathan Mason receiving a summons from the ill-fated Wales tourists in New Zealand in 1988. If memory serves correctly, the talented Pontypridd full-back was pulled off a beach holiday and turned up with his hair a bleached shade. Evidently, the All Blacks were unimpressed.

Mason’s brand-new red jersey never survived the first ruck after he came on as a replacement in the second Test at Eden Park. He had the misfortune to find himself at the bottom of a ruck. “When he reappeared, it was as if he had been put through a shredder,” Evans noted in his book about him.

The Wales shirt in question looked more like a string vest. Mason, like Rawlins before him, had become the latest to discover that tour call-ups are not always what they are cracked up to be.

But it’s a pretty safe bet every rugby adventure to foreign climates sees at least one such summons, possibly more. On that 1988 trip it seemed at times as if they might be forced to send for replacements for the replacements, so many injuries did Tony Gray’s squad suffer.

Thissummer? Doubtless, Wayne Pivac would have told a number of players to stay in trim in case they are needed for Wales’ three-Test series against South Africa.

Who are those who could get calls? We pick a XV of players likely to be on standby:

15.Michael Collins

Wayne Pivac brought him to Wales in 2015 to play for the Scarlets and name-checked him earlier this season after his move to the Ospreys. Collins also finished the campaign well for the Stadium region, playing at full-back. It seems reasonable to assume if a Welsh No. 15 goes down injured in South Africa, the former Otago, Blues and Highlanders player will be there or thereabouts for a first Wales call.

14. Owen Lane

His defense could never be described as watertight, but Lane is big, he’s powerful and he has a nose for the try line. He’s likely to be in the selectors’ minds as a potential wing replacement should one be needed. Luke Morgan, who finished the campaign in prime form, is another option.

13.Jonathan Davies

“I’m disappointed for Jon, because post-Six Nations he has played very well for us. He is a player who has led here as captain and been excellent. I am a big fan of his and I think he can contribute. ” So said Scarlets head coach Dwayne Peel after Davies’ omission from the Wales squad for South Africa.

With his vast experience and organizational skills, the 96-cap center could still offer a lot to Pivac and will not have given up on the idea of ​​playing at a third World Cup. The Springboks would not have been unhappy to see his name missing when Wales announced their squad for summer.

12. Jack Dixon

Spotted in Wales’ team hotel decked out in a Wales kit just days ago. Cover for Nick Tompkins maybe in the run-up to the Gallagher Premiership final? Possibly.

Anyway, the uncapped Dixon deserves to be in the picture after his best season as a professional player.

His regional team boss Dean Ryan floated the idea that potentially and some other Dragons have been overlooked for the South Africa trip because of the Dragons’ low win rate this season.

That seems a fair take on matters.

But Dixon, a strong runner who’s good over the ball, is evidently on Pivac’s radar and so likely to be considered in the event of a problem in midfield.

11.Ryan Conbeer

One of the most consistent wings in regional rugby with his strong running, hard work and appetite for tries. Among Welsh players, only Steff Evans and Owen Lane scored more tries in the United Rugby Championship in 2021-22. Given that the uncapped Conbeer was considered by many to be unlucky not to have bagged a place in Wayne Pivac’s tour squad, the assumption is he’s been told to keep himself in shape over the summer.

10. Callum Sheedy

Started three times off the bench in the Six Nations but Gareth Anscombe has returned to form, Dan Biggar is Wales captain and Rhys Patchell was named in the squad after a couple of eye-catching cameos for the Scarlets. It all adds up to no summer place for Sheedy, but he’s a lively sort who has shown himself to be an asset in the Wales set-up and it’s unlikely he’s off the radar completely.

9. Rhys Webb

A perceived lack of pace seemingly torpedoed Webb’s chances of being in Pivac’s original tour squad. But no other Welsh player won as many man-of-the-match awards in regional rugby this season.

Three, since you ask.

The 33-year-old may or may not have lost a touch of speed since the memorable day eight years ago when he sprinted clear of the Edinburgh defense for a spectacular solo try, but he is also more experienced and sharper in the mind. He has been excellent for the Ospreys this term.

Pivac has said of omitting him: “It’s not so much the age because we’ve got a number of guys in their early 30s and different roles require different skill-sets. As a No. 9, we’re looking at pace as one of the big ingredients.”

On the surface it doesn’t augur well.

But Webb will never believe it’s all over for him at Test level. And he’s the type of jaunty, confident character who might pick a squad up if the situation demands in mid-tour.

It’s not impossible that the Osprey will be called.

1.Nicky Smith

Hasn’t been sighted in the international arena since last summer, despite being ticking many boxes for many people. Unfortunately for Smith, Wayne Pivac and Jonathan Humphreys are not displaying obvious evidence of being his biggest fans.

He can do a sound enough job in the scrums, though, makes ground when he carries with his trademark twisting style, tackles hard and has the technique of an openside flanker when it comes to competing over the ball.

Just maybe, then, Pivac and Humphreys might be tempted should one of their looseheads experience orthopedic issues in the republic.

2. Bradley Roberts

Lacked sufficient time as a starter to nail down a place in Pivac’s group for South Africa. Indeed, Roberts featured in Ulster’s run-on side just three times all season.

But one of the Dragons’ new signings for next term is a dynamic sort who will pile up tackles and carries. Ideal, then, for adding impact.

3. Will Griff John

He’s had an injury or two that’s hampered his bid to make a mark on his first season back in Welsh rugby. But he’s strong enough to push the team bus on his own in the event of it breaking down.

Wales are short of tight-heads and wouldn’t have a lot of choice if problems at No. 3 did arise. Every night, Pivac and Humphreys must pray that Tomas Francis will stay fit and well this summer.

4.Christ Tshiunza

The big man is with Wales U20s, with the selectors having evidently decided he would be better served easing his way back from injury with some age-grade rugby against Italy, Georgia and Scotland than being pitched into a no-holds barred Test series against South Africa.

Good call.

But if there’s a need for that plan to be revised, at least Tshiunza will have been in training and so can be taken off the shelf, so to speak, to join the senior squad.

5. Seb Davies

Left out of the squad amid Cardiff’s difficult spring — and we are talking serious understatement there, with the Arms Park team all over the place after the Six Nations — but Davies’ Wales omission did pose questions. He had largely played well for his country earlier in the term and appeared to be adapting nicely to the hybrid role at lock or blindside flanker where Pivac had been looking to develop someone.

He is also a ball-handler who is quick and has nice hands: ideal, potentially, for a role off the bench, if not as a starter. His versatility and his ability to offer something different mean he shouldn’t give up hope of playing a part in the tour.

6. James Botham

He is physical and doesn’t give up. Botham is also aggressive and willing to put himself in harm’s way. Oh, and he had a decent season despite being part of a misfiring Cardiff team. All that should count for something.

7. Jack Morgan

“We’ve asked him to improve, if he can, in that area of ​​physicality when he’s over the ball, being even stronger than he is.”

So said Wayne Pivac after leaving Jac Morgan out of his panel for South Africa.

That would be the same Jac Morgan who won the United Rugby Championship’s Turnover King award less than a fortnight later.

Coming soon: England cricket selectors tell Joe Root he needs to improve his sweep shot. You can read more on Pivac’s view here.

Such is life. Morgan will have a point to provide if needed in the coming weeks.

8. Morgan Morris

Another player who can be relied on to put in a shift, whatever the opposition.

It’s not known if Wales have concerns about his size or relative lack of it but they should be focusing on what he offers rather than what he doesn’t, with the Ospreys player good over the ball, intelligent in his decision-making, a strong ball carrier, a hard worker in defense and a ruthless finisher from close range, a skill that’s led his regional coach Toby Booth to compare him with England’s Sam Simmonds.

No other Welsh No. 8 has demonstrated the uncapped Morgan’s range of skills in the United Rugby Championship this season.


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