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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

Limerick’s Okeke one of three promoted Greencore Munster Rugby Academy

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THREE players join year one of the Greencore Munster Rugby Academy ahead of the 2021/22 season.

After starring for the Irish U20’s in the Six Nations, Limerick’s Daniel Okeke has joined the Greencore Munster Rugby Academy.

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The Year One recruits are scrum-half Ethan Coughlan (Shannon RFC), prop Mark Donnelly (Garryowen FC) and back-row forward Okeke (Shannon RFC).

28 May 2021; Daniel Okeke of Ireland U20 during the match between Ireland U20 and Leinster A at Energia Park in Dublin. Photo by Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile

Limerick’s Okeke started out at Thomond RFC before playing his schools rugby with Ardscoil Rís, producing some standout moments in the 2019 Schools Senior Cup campaign.

Advancing through the National Talent Squad programme Daniel lined out for Munster A in December 2020 and was included in Richie Murphy’s Ireland Squad for the 2021 Six Nations Championship. The 19-year-old scored a try against Wales and made his first start against Italy.

He plays his club rugby with Shannon RFC.

As previously confirmed nine of the Academy group advanced to senior Munster contracts for 2021/22 – Thomas Ahern (Lock/Shannon), Jack Crowley (Out-half/Cork Constitution), Jack Daly (Back-row forward/Garryowen), Jake Flannery (Out-half/Shannon), Ben Healy (Out-half/Garryowen), John Hodnett (Back-row forward/UCC), James French (Prop/UCC), Seán French (Centre/Cork Constitution), Josh Wycherley (Prop/Young Munster).

Greencore Munster Rugby Academy 2021/22

As always there may be further additions over the coming months.

Year Three: Paddy Kelly (Lock/Garryowen), Eoin O’Connor (Lock/Young Munster), Paddy Patterson (Scrum-half/UCD), Jonathan Wren (Back three/Cork Constitution).

Year Two: Scott Buckley (Hooker/UCC), Cian Hurley (Lock/Garryowen), Alex Kendellen (Back-row forward/UCC), Conor Phillips (Winger/Young Munster)

Year One: Ethan Coughlan (Scrum-half/Shannon), Mark Donnelly (Prop/Garryowen), Daniel Okeke (Back-row forward/Shannon)

The post Limerick’s Okeke one of three promoted Greencore Munster Rugby Academy appeared first on Sporting Limerick.

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Duchess Kate to be handed Prince Harry’s former role by the Queen

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Duchess Kate is reportedly going to be handed various sporting patronages by the Queen, these were roles that were previously held by the Duke of Sussex, Prince Harry.


Duchess Kate will be the new patron of the Rugby Football Union (RFU) and the Rugby Football League (RFL), reports The Sunday Times.

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Munster Rugby | Trio Join Greencore Munster Rugby Academy

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Three players join year one of the Greencore Munster Rugby Academy ahead of the 2021/22 season.

The Year One recruits are scrum-half Ethan Coughlan (Shannon RFC), prop Mark Donnelly (Garryowen FC) and back-row forward Daniel Okeke (Shannon RFC).

As previously confirmed nine of the Academy group advanced to senior Munster contracts for 2021/22 – Thomas Ahern (Lock/Shannon), Jack Crowley (Out-half/Cork Constitution), Jack Daly (Back-row forward/Garryowen), Jake Flannery (Out-half/Shannon), Ben Healy (Out-half/Garryowen), John Hodnett (Back-row forward/UCC), James French (Prop/UCC), Seán French (Centre/Cork Constitution), Josh Wycherley (Prop/Young Munster).

In April it was also confirmed that Academy hooker Eoghan Clarke made the move to English Championship club Jersey Reds.

After completing his third year, Jonathan Wren extends his time in the Academy after a hamstring injury hampered his development last season, while Paddy Patterson links up with the Academy group after extending his stay with the province.

The former Leinster Academy scrum-half made the move on a short-term deal in January but his involvement was curtailed due to an ankle injury sustained in March.

See player bios of the new Academy recruits, and the full listing of the group below.

Ethan Coughlan – Scrum-half

From Clare, Coughlan won the U16 Munster title in 2018 and shared the U18 Cup title honours in 2020 with his club side Ennis RFC as his progression from club and regional development squads saw him feature for Munster and Ireland at U18 Clubs level.

He captained the Ireland U18 Clubs in Italy in 2019 under Head Coach Fiach O’Loughlin before signing up with All Ireland League side Shannon RFC.

For the 2020/21 season he joined several Munster senior training sessions providing cover at 9 and featured for the Munster A side.

A member of the National Talent Squad, the 19-year-old was included in the Ireland U20s Talent Camp in May.

Mark Donnelly – Prop

Mark Donnelly won a Munster Schools Senior Cup with CBC in 2019 and has represented Ireland at U18 and U20 level.

At the beginning of the 2020/21 season, the Garryowen tighthead was involved for Munster 7s in the IRFU’s inaugural HPC Sevens Series and represented Munster A in interprovincial clashes with Ulster A and Leinster A.

Most recently the 20-year-old featured for Ireland in the 2021 U20 Six Nations and lined out against Scotland, Wales and England.

Daniel Okeke – Back-row forward

Limerick’s Daniel Okeke started out at Thomond RFC before playing his schools rugby with Ardscoil Rís, producing some standout moments in the 2019 Schools Senior Cup campaign.

Advancing through the National Talent Squad programme Daniel lined out for Munster A in December 2020 and was included in Richie Murphy’s Ireland Squad for the 2021 Six Nations Championship. The 19-year-old scored a try against Wales and made his first start against Italy.

He plays his club rugby with Shannon RFC.

Greencore Munster Rugby Academy 2021/22

As always there may be further additions over the coming months.

Year Three: Paddy Kelly (Lock/Garryowen), Eoin O’Connor (Lock/Young Munster), Paddy Patterson (Scrum-half/UCD), Jonathan Wren (Back three/Cork Constitution).

Year Two: Scott Buckley (Hooker/UCC), Cian Hurley (Lock/Garryowen), Alex Kendellen (Back-row forward/UCC), Conor Phillips (Winger/Young Munster)

Year One: Ethan Coughlan (Scrum-half/Shannon), Mark Donnelly (Prop/Garryowen), Daniel Okeke (Back-row forward/Shannon)

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