With the Wales squad for the tour of South Africa to be named next week, head coach Wayne Pivac faces some big decisions. He could be without 10 or more front-liners through injury and that in turn would open the door for some fresh faces. Here are some of the uncapped contenders when the squad is announced next week.
Has been arguably the Ospreys’ most consistent performer over the past two or three seasons and is bang on form, having demonstrated his power and determination with a close-range hat-trick against the Dragons on Sunday. With Aaron Wainwright ruled out of the South African tour by a heel stress fracture and fellow Dragon Ross Moriarty a significant doubt due to leg nerve damage, there could well be a vacancy as No 8 back-up to Taulupe Faletau.
While that’s Morris’ primary position, he is able to play across the back row, which makes him a valuable asset for a touring party. He has made more ball carries and beaten more defenders than any other Wales-qualified player in the United Rugby Championship this season, while also delivering a stack of tackles and turnovers. It’s a compelling case he has made and you can read just how highly Shane Williams rates the 23-year-old here.
With the crocked Johnny McNicholl likely to miss the tour, an injury doubt over Josh Adams and Jonah Holmes heading for England, there could be a chance for a new face on the wing and the Scarlets’ Conbeer is the leading candidate. The promise has been there for a while and he has kicked on this season, with his great feet, speed and finishing prowess really catching the eye. Must be a nightmare to mark.
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In Justin Tipuric’s continued absence, there’s an open opportunity. There’s certainly no shortage of options in Welsh rugby’s most prolific position, but Pencoed product Reffell couldn’t have done much more this season with his efforts for Premiership leaders Leicester, particularly in terms of his work over the ball and in defence.
Having showcased his potential for Wales U20s, Costelow had to bide his time following his move from Leicester to Scarlets, but he’s been getting more game-time of late and confirming his huge talent. If Wayne Pivac wants to look at an attack-minded fresh face in the pivotal position on tour, then the gifted 21-year-old would certainly fit the ball.
Only 19 and still eligible for Wales U20s, but the son of former Swansea and Neath back row Hywel Jenkins has proven the truth of the adage that if you are good enough, you are old enough, with the way he has risen to the challenge of regular rugby with Exeter. Wales need to look to the future at lock and the athletic 6ft 6ins, 18st teenager could well be the future.
The uncapped bolter in the Six Nations squad, Ratti wasn’t to get any game-time during the Championship, but feels he benefited significantly from the experience of being in camp and that seems evident from his recent performances at No 8 for Cardiff. The Welsh set-up is crying out for ball-carrying clout and the converted second row offers just that.
When the Welsh-qualified Collins joined the Ospreys from the Highlanders last summer, he was immediately seen as a squad contender having previously impressed under Pivac at the Scarlets. But, by his own admission, it did not really happen for him during the first half of the season. Yet, having recently switched from center to full-back, he is demonstrating his footballing ability there and cover may be needed in that position amid the injury absence of McNicholl and Leigh Halfpenny, while Collins’ versatility and experience could make him a valuable tourist.
The Scarlets flanker was selected to make his Test debut against Scotland some 15 months ago, only for fate to cruelly take a hand as he ruptured his Achilles just half an hour after being named in the team. Injuries have bedeviled him over the last couple of years, but now he is back and Pivac is an admirer, seeing him as an option at both 7 and 6.
The raw attributes have been obvious for some time, with the son of 92-cap lock Gareth being some physical specimen in the center at 6ft 5ins and 16st 7lbs. Now that he is finally getting a run of games for Cardiff, you are really starting to see him blossom. With his size and astute angles of running, the 23-year-old takes some stopping and offers a valuable gain-line breaking option at 12, where a squad vacancy could open up amid injury to club colleague Willis Halaholo.
Found limited opportunities at both Cardiff and Dragons, yet despite facing competition from international No 9s in Gareth Davies and Kieran Hardy, he has earned plentiful game-time at the Scarlets and showed the threat he offers with his pace and running support. There is some doubt about the fitness of Tomas Williams and if Wales want to look at a new scrum-half option in camp, 23-year-old Blacker is a prime contender.
A real workhorse in the second row for the Ospreys, he’s proved a very decent acquisition since coming on board from Bath. Excellent in defense, frequently into double figures in tackles, physical and a solid lineout option, while he will have learned much packing down alongside Alun Wyn Jones, Adam Beard and Bradley Davies.
With Lions Test starter Wyn Jones having undergone knee surgery, there could be an opening on the loosehead and Domachowski has been pushing hard over the past couple of years for Cardiff. A powerful unit. Mention too for fellow prop Steffan Thomas who has had a real breakthrough season with the Scarlets.
Finally, what about this for a smash and grab move? The 19-year-old London Irish full-back has represented England U20s and is being tipped for a call-up into Eddie Jones’ senior squad for the tour to Australia. But he’s reportedly Welsh qualified and after his length of the field wonder-try against Toulon at the weekend he’s the talk of rugby. Let the tug-of-war begin!