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What’s become of Wayne Pivac’s seven Wales opens amid shock axings and an imminent new audition

It’s probably a bit flippant to suggest Wayne Pivac used to be indecisive but now he just can’t make up his mind.

But at some point Wales’ head coach would well to settle the situation down at openside flanker.

Four players have worn the No. 7 shirt over the past seven games, with Justin Tipuric’s absence through injury seemingly leaving the selectors uncertain who to choose in the role where Wales are said to have such riches.

In all, Pivac has started with seven different flyers since taking over from Warren Gatland after the last World Cup. It is seen as perhaps the position of greatest depth in Welsh rugby, but Pivac still seems unconvinced by some of the main protagonists.

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And he could cap another on tour in South Africa this summer.

We list those he’s used so far and assess the chances of a new face appearing in the republic.

Justin Typuric

Had the master craftsman stayed fit this piece would not have been written.

But it wasn’t to be.

The Trebanos product had started in 13 out of the first 15 Tests of Pivac’s reign.

In March 2020, Will Greenwood said of him: “Tipuric is operating at an extraordinary level at the moment. He’s brilliant when Wales win, and, more importantly, he’s outstanding when Wales lose. That is the sign of a truly magnificent rugby player — when it all goes wrong, and you are still being talked about. He’s a special player.”

But an injury on Lions duty last summer has sadly tweezed him out of the mix for the past year.

He’s hoping to be fit for the new season. You can read more about him here.

Justin Tipuric looks on after his injury playing for the Lions against Japan

James Davis

The freakishly gifted Scarlet came in for his only start under Pivac against Scotland in the autumn of 2020.

Barely three weeks later he suffered a concussion while appearing off the bench against Georgia.

The injury stubbornly refused to clear up and, after enduring some brutally tough times, Davies retired as a player in April this year.

James Bothham

A bit of a puzzle here.

The Cardiff player figured in Wales’ run-on side against England in the Autumn Nations Cup clash in Llanelli in 2020 and started all three Tests last summer.

An injury ruled him out of contention for the autumn Tests, but he went on to play well for Cardiff over the rest of the season, often standing out in adversity, without figuring for Wales in the Six Nations.

His memorable hit on Alex Dombrandt in the Heineken Champions Cup game with Harlequins before Christmas underlined the physicality he brings, with Botham lifting one of English rugby’s biggest ball carriers clean off his feet before depositing him on his back.

Maybe his ability to play across the back row has counted against him as he competes with specialists on the Test scene. There again, being versatile hasn’t hurt Josh Navidi.

Whatever, Botham is a player with a lot to offer.

Taine Basham

After making his Wales debut last summer, he moved into the starting line-up for the first time in the game against New Zealand in the autumn.

Basham performed strongly, tearing into rucks and mauls, carrying with venom and refusing to be overawed by the All Blacks.

Further encouraging displays followed, leading one writer to include the young Dragon in his World XV of the autumn.

Basham also shone against Ireland in Dublin in the Six Nations on a day when few of his team-mates did much to enhance their reputations.

But an average game against England in round three proved the end of his championship for the season.

He’s in Wales’ summer squad, though, and a player who’s set to be around for a long time with his ability to work hard in the trenches as well as do the Hollywood stuff.

Thomas Young

England-based at the time, he was granted a dispensation to play for Wales in the autumn and featured at No. 7 against Fiji.

But the then Wasps forward was unavailable during the Six Nations because of the rule that prevents exiled players from playing for Wales unless they have 60 or more caps.

He’ll be on Cardiff’s books again in the new season and it will be intriguing to see whether he can force his way back into contention.

Jack Morgan

What would be your back row for the first Test against South Africa? “Josh Navidi, Taulupe Faletau and Jac Morgan,” replied Sean Holley last week, a few weeks after Wayne Pivac had picked a squad that didn’t include Morgan.

In fairness, Holley acknowledged the omission but still insisted he would have picked Morgan himself, calling him “a special player”.

The Ospreys youngster started for Wales for the first time against Scotland in the Six Nations.

Pivac kept him in his matchday squad for the games with England and France, choosing him ahead of Taine Basham for the match with the French, before leaving both out for the ill-fated date with Italy.

Now Morgan finds himself out for the summer tour to South Africa.

Wales’ coach justified the call by saying the west Walian needed to be stronger over the ball, but less than two weeks later Morgan won the United Rugby Championship’s Turnover King award after achieving 24 steals across the season.

You couldn’t make it up?

That sounds about right.

Josh Navidi

The Cardiff player has started just six Tests since Pivac took over, with injuries sidelining him for long periods.

His first turn in the No. 7 shirt under this regime came against France in the Six Nations earlier this term. He performed creditably given that he’d had just one outing in the previous five months.

He also wasn’t the worst in the shambles that followed against Italy.

Will he start at openside in the opener against South Africa?

It’s not an easy one to call.

And here’s the new boy who could line up at No. 7 in South Africa this summer…

Tommy Refell

He’s a tough nut who’s handled all that the Gallagher Premiership can throw at him so far.

Wales will hope he’s the man for sure-to-be-physical mission in South Africa in the weeks ahead, then.

“He’ll be capped out there — there’d be no point picking him otherwise,” suggested Sean Holley to WalesOnline last week. “He’ll probably feature in the second or third game, to give him a chance to show he’s up to Test standard.”

Let’s see.

Whether Reffell starts will presumably depend on how he shapes up in Wales training in the coming weeks.

But the pencoed product is now in the frame.

It’s up to him to show Pivac why he should stay there.

It’s not always easily done.


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