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The completely different and much stronger looking Wales team Wayne Pivac will field when Test rugby returns in the autumn

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Wayne Pivac might have prepared for his first Six Nations campaign playing out a few different ways.

A tilt at the title? Of course, you always back yourself to be a contender.

A tough run of reality? Sure, Test rugby is decided by fine margins and it’s easier than you’d think to slide to consecutive defeats.

The Six Nations not being completed due to a global pandemic? Now, Pivac probably didn’t see that one coming.

The reality is, due to the coronavirus, we don’t truly know when Wales will take to the field next.

With certain players’ injury recovery being aided by the lack of action, and others’ club futures up in the air, we can make some educated guesses on what the starting XV might look like when Wales do next hit a ruck in anger.

And it’s very different to the side Pivac has fielded to date, certainly in the back division.

15. Liam Williams

Once again, it’s a shoot-out for the 15 jersey between Liam Williams and Leigh Halfpenny.

Before now, Halfpenny had often won out in that battle, but over the last two years, Williams has had possession of his preferred jersey when fit.

Williams wasn’t fit for the start of the Six Nations, meaning Halfpenny was back in the starting XV after being on the periphery in the World Cup.

Given how Pivac wants to play, it’s fair to assume Williams will reclaim the number .15 jersey when rugby resumes.

14. George North

During the Six Nations, there was plenty of discussion about who should be starting on the wing.

George North, Johnny McNicholl or Louis Rees-Zammitt? That was the question.

North ultimately retained his place and the likelihood is that will still be the case whenever Wales play next.

McNicholl didn’t do enough to displace the Ospreys winger, while Rees-Zammitt, despite public clamour, hasn’t been handed his chance yet.

13. Jonathan Davies

There are few players Wales miss as much as Jonathan Davies when he’s not there.

Defensively, he has a knack of holding the team together – with his reading of the game and the sheer workload he takes on one of the keys to Wales being so aggressive in defence at their best.

Wales’ defensive woes were attributed to Byron Hayward taking over from Shaun Edwards, but Davies’ absence was arguably just as important. When he’s back, he starts.

Jonathan Davies of Wales runs through to score
Jonathan Davies in action during the 2019 World Cup

12. Nick Tompkins

Nick Tompkins was the find of the Six Nations for Pivac, with the Saracens centre impressing on his introduction to Test rugby.

The next time Wales play, Tompkins could be plying his trade in this country – with the Dragons now reportedly leading the chase.

And with Hadleigh Parkes, a man who has given as much to the jersey as you could ask in his 29 caps, set to leave Welsh rugby for a Japanese swansong, Tompkins looks certain to be Wales’ next starting inside centre.

11. Josh Adams

Josh Adams’ rapid rise to one of the deadliest finishers in Test rugby has been remarkable to watch.

So when he limped out against Ireland in Dublin during the Six Nations, it was undoubtedly a blow for Wales.

Having him back fit to play, whenever that may be, is a major positive.

10. Gareth Anscombe

Speaking after the World Cup, Warren Gatland revealed that Gareth Anscombe’s injury was the first time he’d missed a player during his time in charge.

So, to say having the Ospreys playmaker back will be a boost is an understatement.

During the 2019 Six Nations, Wales found an ideal balance of Anscombe as a starter and Dan Biggar, to steal an Eddie Jones phrase, acting as a finisher.

As harsh as it would be on Biggar to be relegated back to the bench, given his talents, Pivac, like Gatland, may well decide that Anscombe starting is the best way to using the two of them in tandem.

9. Rhys Webb

During the Six Nations, it didn’t seem like Wales knew who their best scrum-half was.

Tomos Williams was handed the jersey at the start, with Gareth Davies playing second fiddle and Rhys Webb, back in the set-up after a few years in France, naturally playing catch-up.

By the final team announcement, Williams was dropped from the 23 altogether, while Webb was handed a start for the Scotland match that, ultimately, never went ahead.

Maybe that gives Webb a slight advantage, but honestly, it’s anyone’s guess who wears the nine jersey next.

1. Wyn Jones

Wyn Jones established himself as first-choice throughout the World Cup and it’s hard to see that changing anytime soon – especially as Rob Evans’ stock at Test level has somewhat dropped in the last 12 months.

Moving forward, the man known as ‘Sausage’ will likely retain his starting spot.

2. Ken Owens

Elliot Dee has been the deputy to the Sheriff – Ken Owens – for some time now, but the Six Nations perhaps saw a changing of the guard when it came to second-in-command.

Ryan Elias has emerged as a challenger to Dee and may well be the next cab off the rank after Owens.

Elias now looks the man to replace the 33-year-old Owens, but you doubt the Sheriff has fired his last shot just yet.

3. Tomas Francis

When rugby does return, the reality is that there will likely be a lot of Tests to play.

Tomas Francis will certainly be hoping so. The Exeter prop is 12 caps short of the 60 caps needed to continue playing for Wales while picking up a wage across the border.

He likely would have reached that by the end of his current contract, had rugby not been put on hold. Now he’s facing a tough decision.

But Wales’ scrum did struggle without him and there’s a good chance he’ll start when Wales play next.

Who played instead of him

Wales' scrum struggled during the summer and Tomas Francis has revealed why
Tomas Francis in action for Wales

4. Cory Hill

2019 was a rough year for Cory Hill.

It started with the second-row continuing to establish himself as a leader in the Welsh squad, only for injury to strike – ironically when he was scoring a crucial try against England.

He ended up missing the World Cup and had to wait a year for his next taste of Test rugby.

Jake Ball started in his place and provided the unheralded grunt that Wales needed.

But Hill’s added mobility and ball-handling could be just the sort of lock Pivac wants in his side moving forward.

5. Alun Wyn Jones

A pretty simple one.

Alun Wyn Jones may be getting on in years, but he’s the captain and a talismanic one at that.

He’ll start whenever Wales play next.

6. Josh Navidi

Wales could well have a embarrassment of back-row riches by the time they next play.

Aaron Wainwright and Aaron Shingler would certainly be in contention to start on the blindside when rugby resumes.

But, Wales lacked breakdown presence during the Six Nations so the best option perhaps is Josh Navidi – a man who always punches above his weight at this level.

7. Justin Tipuric

Again, the back-row selection will be tough when rugby resumes.

Ellis Jenkins and James Davies will certainly be further along in their recoveries.

But, wherever they are in their rehab, Justin Tipuric will likely retain his spot in the starting XV after arguably being Wales’ best performer during the Six Nations.

8. Taulupe Faletau

Ross Moriarty has never let Wales down since making his Test debut five years ago, but the prospect of getting Taulupe Faletau back fully fit and performing at Test level is a mouthwatering one.

A combination of Navidi, Tipuric and Faletau could hold the ideal balance of physicality, breakdown nous and carrying threat in wide channels that Pivac will want from his back-row.



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Six Nations Rugby | Le Garrec: Runners-up spot marks fitting send-off for departing players

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2019 champions Ireland had started the day as the only side who could mathematically topple eventual winners England at the top of the ranks, and Jamie Osborne’s try put France on the back foot early on.

Alex Kendellen also went over for the men in green in a try-filled first half, but scores from Thibault Debaes, Pierre Bochaton and Paul Mallez earned Les Bleuets a slender lead at the break.

Though Kendellen notched a second at the death Louis Bielle-Biarrey’s cleverly-worked try proved enough for France, helping them leapfrog their opponents in the standings.

Scrum-half Le Garrec said: “We’re really proud of our performance against Ireland – it’s great to finish on a high and give a good impression of ourselves.

“There are a lot of important players who will be leaving us after a number of years – the likes of Matthias [Haddad] and Paul [Mallez] – and we wanted to give back to them on the pitch.

“We have lots of good players. In some matches we struggled with our structure and getting out of our half, but with the ball we are capable of creating things. I love our style of play.”

Thibault Debaes

After an opening round defeat to England three-time winners France swept aside Italy, Wales, Scotland and Ireland in successive matches, and Le Garrec’s half-back partner Debaes agreed there were plenty of positives to take from the campaign.

Debaes, 19, picked up the Player of the Match plaudits against Ireland, having controlled the second half with a scintillating kicking display while also contributing a try.

He added: “Unfortunately the second half against England lost us the Championship, but we learnt a lot throughout the series. We were put under pressure by every team, but we learned to manage games and the end of matches.

“The level was high in every match and we are very happy to finish the Championship in second place.”

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Jonah Lomu’s son reveals he ‘dreams’ of playing in the Six Nations

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The son of All Black superstar Jonah Lomu has revealed he’d prefer to play in the Six Nations should he follow in his legendary late father’s footsteps.

Dhyreille Lomu, who currently plays on the wing, was born in France during his Dad’s brief stint playing for Marseille, hence any eligibility discussions for Les Bleus wouldn’t be an issue.

Known as Frenchie at school in New Zealand, the aspiring youngster has already began to impress at a number of age-grade tournaments in New Zealand.

Despite being 12, he’s already played in older teams as his obvious talent is beginning to shine through.

Lomu’s stime in France came towards the end of the his career, which also included a stint with the Cardiff Blues in Europe.

EDITORS PICKS:

Tragically, Lomu died in November 2015.

Playing on the wing Lomu finished his international career with 63 caps and 37 tries. He is regarded as the first true global superstar of rugby and consequently had a huge impact on the game

Below, we look at five other rugby legends sons who are making waves, but currently represent different countries to their legendary Dads.

Here’s a list of rugby legends sons who are set to play in the Six Nations.

1. Lucas Brooke (England)

  • Age: 19
  • Club: London Irish
  • Position: back-row
  • Dad: Zinzan Brooke (New Zealand)

Brooke, who can play across the back-row or at hooker, grew up in England so is fully qualified to wear the red rose. The powerhouse has represented Berkshire at county level and regularly played for his school, Wellington College.

CONTINUES ON PAGE 2




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Six Nations Rugby | Preview: France aim to make history in third Test against Australia

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Les Bleus bounced back from their heart-breaking loss in the opening match of the series with a first win over the Wallabies on Australian soil in 31 years on Tuesday.

And now they will look to clinch the series back in Brisbane to record a first-ever series win on Australian soil.

It would be a remarkable achievement for Les Bleus, particularly when you consider that they travelled Down Under without the majority of their first-choice players because of a combination of injuries, rest and the absence of the Top 14 finalists.

In their absence, a number of players have staked a claim for bigger roles within Fabien Galthié’s side, and victory in the third Test would only strengthen those claims.

Team news

With three Tests in 11 days, and more importantly, a five-day turnaround, there were always going to be changes for both sides.

Yet Galthié and counterpart Dave Rennie have both shown faith in some of their key men, with France starting six players for the third Test in a row, while Australia have gone for even more continuity with eight players starting each Test of the series.

Fly-half Antoine Hastoy is the one uncapped player in the French starting XV, while centre Pierre-Louis Barassi and winger Teddy Thomas make their first appearances of the tour.

Anthony Jelonch will lead the side once again, joining Baptiste Couilloud, Arthur Vincent, Damian Penaud, Melvyn Jaminet and Gaëtan Barlot in starting every Test. After a standout display in the second Test, Cameron Woki starts once again in the back row.

There are two uncapped players on the bench, back-rower Alexandre Bécognée and centre Julien Hériteau.

For Australia, exciting scrum-half Tate McDermott gets his opportunity to start after coming off the bench in the first two matches, while Isi Naisarani is rewarded for some strong replacement showings after being named at No.8.

Ones to watch

In Gaël Fickou and Virimi Vakatawa, France already boast one of the top centre combinations in the world, but this tour has seen Arthur Vincent show just why he was thrust onto the highest scene as a 20-year-old.

The Montpellier centre shifts to inside centre for this one, but will again line up against Hunter Paisami, having largely nullified the threat of one of Australia’s main strike runners in the second Test where Vincent made 25 tackles.

He links up with Pierre-Louis Barassi, the Lyon centre who ended the season in flying form and will be looking to get the better of Wallaby newcomer Len Ikitau, who is making his first Test start.

What they said

France captain Anthony Jelonch said: “This squad is hungry for wins. So after the win in the second Test, everyone turned their attention to Saturday’s game and had the feeling that we could do something truly historic. Winning this series, that’s not happened for a long time in the southern hemisphere.

“The squad has one aim, to win this match. We will all be ready to produce a big performance this weekend, especially after what we’ve seen on social media: the support of the public, all the families following us, it warms your heart.”

Teams

Australia: 15. Tom Banks, 14. Filipo Daugunu, 13. Len Ikitau, 12. Hunter Paisami, 11. Marika Koroibete, 10. Noah Lolesio, 9. Tate McDermott, 1. James Slipper 2. Brandon Paenga-Amosa, 3. Allan Alaalatoa, 4. Darcy Swain, 5. Lukhan Salakaia-Loto, 6. Lachlan Swinton, 7. Michael Hooper (c), 8. Isi Naisarani

Replacements: 16. Jordan Uelese, 17. Angus Bell, 18. Taniela Tupou, 19. Matt Philip, 20. Rob Valetini, 21. Jake Gordon, 22. Matt To’omua, 23. Reece Hodge

France: 15. Melvyn Jaminet, 14. Damian Penaud, 13. Pierre-Louis Barassi, 12. Arthur Vincent, 11. Teddy Thomas, 10. Antoine Hastoy, 9. Baptiste Couilloud, 1. Enzo Forletta, 2. Gaëtan Barlot, 3. Sipili Falatea, 4. Pierre-Henri Azagoh, 5. Romain Taofifenua, 6. Dylan Cretin, 7. Cameron Woki, 8. Anthony Jelonch (c)

Replacements: 16. Anthony Etrillard, 17. Quentin Walcker, 18. Demba Bamba, 19. Baptiste Pesenti, 20. Alexandre Bécognée, 21. Teddy Iribaren, 22. Anthony Bouthier, 23. Julien Hériteau



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