It’s derby day, and a lot of players are trying to impress Warren Gatland, the new coach of Wales, in time for the Six Nations.
Many of the stars who had been shunned by Wayne, Gatland’s predecessor, are hoping for a big day to break into the Wales team.
The Wales coach will keep an eye on things from New Zealand and will be particularly interested in the scrum-half battle between Rhys Webb, who wants to get the Wales nine jersey back, and Tomos Williams, who is currently wearing it. Webb will be determined to make a big statement to Gatland in such a high-profile match, as he hasn’t started a game for his country in three years.
With Gareth Anscombe out of the Six Nations and Gatland in need of a No. 10 back-up to Dan Biggar, rival fly-halves Owen Williams and Jarrod Evans both have a chance to stake Wales’ claims.
Liam Williams, who suffered a dislocated shoulder in September and will play his first rugby game for Cardiff, will be eager to return “with a bang” in time for the Six Nations squad selection, as Arms Park manager David Young predicts he will.
Before Williams, there are four Cardiff forwards who were marginalized under Pivac: Rhys Carre, Seb Davies, Thomas Young, and Ellis Jenkins, who takes Williams’ place in the back row now. Even though Young and Jenkins, a former Gatland favorite, are aware that there is a plethora of back-row talent available, it is a significant opportunity, particularly for front five duo Carre and Davies to press their claims for Wales.
Gatland has previously referenced the age profile of the Grains crew, but at the same time he’s a monstrous admirer of the initiative characteristics his Lions captain shows and will be quick to see those to the front as he considers his Ribs blend this month.
Back rowers Jac Morgan and Justin Tipuric will be determined to win the breakdown battle and thus impress the national coach, while Ospreys center Michael Collins, an ex-Otago captain who Gatland might like, will also look to push his Wales chances.
Dewi Lake, who Gatland won’t have seen much of, Nicky Smith, who has been in fantastic form for his region, and Tomas Francis, an old Gatland favorite who went down the Wales pecking order under Pivac, will also look to stake their own claims for Wales.
However, when it comes to Wales’ Six Nations spots, a number of Scarlets and Dragons players want to impress Gatland when those two Welsh rivals meet at teatime in Llanelli.
Leigh Halfpenny, Gatland’s old Mr Reliable at full-back, will be on a mission to show his physical issue issues are behind him and that at 34 years old he can in any case sparkle when it is important.
Since suffering a severe knee injury against Canada in 2021, Halfpenny, the fan favorite, has been plagued by issues. He was selected by Pivac to start Wales’ autumn Test matches against Australia and New Zealand, but he had to pull out at the last minute on both occasions.
After a disappointing season in which Dwayne Peel’s Scarlets won only once in the United Rugby Championship, Halfpenny will be eager to help the team rebound. Rhys Patchell, Johnny McNicholl, and Halfpenny will all want to impress.
Aaron Wainwright and Ross Moriarty, two Dragons forwards who were once favorites for Gatland but became outcasts under Pivac, can also score in the Six Nations. Taine Basham is back from an injury, and Rio Dyer, an exciting young wing, will try to continue scoring tries that earned him his first Welsh cap.
After injuring himself during Gloucester’s loss to Leicester last week, the flying wing wears an ankle boot. He faces an immense errand to be prepared to play against Ireland in Cardiff on February 4 and in a worst situation imaginable might be down and out for a considerable length of time, as per Skivington.
In the coming days, the results of the scans on Rees-Zammit’s injured ankle will have Warren Gatland sweating.
After Gloucester’s New Year’s Eve Gallagher Premiership defeat of London Irish by 8-6 score: He won’t need surgery, but the prognosis isn’t clear because we haven’t received the scans this week due to delays at the hospital. His ankle is in a boot.
“He will certainly be out for a period of time, which could last anywhere from two weeks to six months,” so he might not join the Six Nations until later.