Young Wales 10 contend for shirt as Dan Biggar era ends
In the final stages of Warren Gatland’s reign, the Welsh fly-half jersey was up for grabs ahead of his final World Cup.
Rhys Patchell shone on the Argentina summer tour in 2018, before Gareth Anscombe made the jersey his own that fall. However, fate cruelly intervened and deprived Anscombe of a place in Japan through injury, allowing Dan Biggar to reassert himself as the first choice.
Since Wayne Pivac took over, his grip on the jersey has never really been tested. Seven other fly-halfs have featured in squads since 2020, but Biggar’s place in the squad has arguably never been stronger.
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It would take something huge for Biggar not to start at next year’s World Cup in France. However, at 32 and with 100 caps to his name, the end of the Biggar era isn’t exactly miles away.
So while the Northampton Saints playmaker will be determined to play for his country for as long as possible, it’s likely the next long-term Welsh fly-half is already plying his trade at professional level.
If we start with the seven who have already been called up in the past two years, some are clearly better placed than others. Gamemaster of the Dragons Sam Davies hasn’t featured in a squad for some time and doesn’t look likely to add to his eight caps anytime soon.
Cardiff playmaker Jarrod Evans seems to be headed for the same fate. Despite starting in Pivac’s first game against the Barbarians, he hasn’t been featured since last summer and apparently hasn’t had much contact with the Welsh coaches.
At least, that was the situation after missing out on Six Nations selection. His love of rugby league shines through in the way he directs an attack, one of his trademarks being able to keep his shoulders perfectly straight in motion as he spots gaps with a range of passes, but doubts about his game management and kicking abilities – whether unfounded or not – seem likely to keep him on the test stage.
Another playmaker from Arms Park, Ben Thomas , is a half-half/centre hybrid that Welsh rugby always seems desperate to produce. Having made his debut last summer, it seems more likely he will build a future as a second five-eighth rather than a fly-half.
10 of the Bristol Bears Callum Sheedy has become a favorite of Pivac, establishing himself as Biggar’s assistant since making his debut under the former Scarlets manager in the fall of 2020. Were you watching the most likely successor in At this time, at the current age of 26, the former Corpus Christi High School student would be up there.
Although he has suffered a dip in form for the Premiership club this season, he still remains in Wales’ plans and, when called up, showed he could turn the backline around.
Anyone else who has shown decent times since Pivac brought him back into international rugby is Rhys Priestland . After playing under Pivac at the Scarlets he is back in Welsh rugby at Cardiff and when called up the 35-year-old showed that knack of taking the ball to the line and leaving defenders stranded which made him Gatland’s first choice. ten.
scarlet star patchell had his moments on the Test stage, with that 2018 tour perhaps being the pinnacle, but since then he’s been plagued with injuries. His recent return has shown his ability as a willing running threat leaves defenses guessing and forces play on any ground Pivac desires.
The other player who rivaled Biggar in the later stages of Gatland’s reign was Anscombe . Having been the first choice ahead of Biggar, he has now had to go through two years of rehabilitation just to return to play after a serious knee injury. It is thanks to him that he is simply back in the picture. However, playing on an Ospreys team that lacks a lot of offensive prowess doesn’t exactly help his cause.
And the thing about Priestland, Patchell and Anscombe is that, aside from Patchell perhaps, they’re unlikely to outlive Biggar by much, if at all. So you can probably rule them all out as its successor.
Apart from those called, the obvious name to start with is Sam Costelow . Hype has been following the 21-year-old for some time now, with eye-catching performances and tries for the Wales Under-20s in the vein of Phil Bennett only adding fuel to that particular fire .
However, the hype is relatively justified as Costelow is undoubtedly talented. Fortunately, it has been handled well so far. Leicester Tigers didn’t rush things to start, while the Scarlets followed a similar appearance when he moved to West Wales. It’s only now that he’s really starting to become a regular in the Scarlets 10 shirt and that slow approach is paying off.
He is becoming a good fly-half. It’s no wonder he’s been singled out as a future Welsh 10 by many.
from Bristol Ian Lloyd has already been capped by Wales and right now you would imagine his future in the game is at the back or even inside the centre, but he is capable of playing fly-half and, if Bristol and Pat Lam see fit, that might be the route he takes. Right now though, his best position is undecided.
Instead, it’s his younger brother and club mate, Jacques Lloyd , who occupies the post of opener. He was involved with the U20s during their Six Nations campaign and, like his brother, he is the proud owner of an extravagant side step and a flair to burn.
Honing his skills as a one-game manager will be next on the to-do list, with the U20s 10 shirt changing a bit this year. It should come with experience. As for the other young players who have donned the 10 shirt for the U20s this year, Dan Edwards showed some nice touches, although he lost the starting shirt to Lloyd after the Aberavon fly-half was part of the Ireland hammered squad on the opening weekend .
Meanwhile, Joe Hawkins replaced Lloyd in the last match against Italy. However, the Ospreys youngster is a center of craft.