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The verdict on the Wales squad, the five new faces and the most deserved selection of the lot

While having so many players to choose from will have been a welcome headache for Wayne Pivac, it does mean he was never going to please everyone with his Wales squad selection.

So it’s proved, with his 34-man party for the summer Tests against Canada and Argentina provoking plenty of debate and a fair few raised eyebrows.

Five uncapped players is probably around about what people were expecting, but they are not necessarily the anticipated five.

Second row Ben Carter is one who was widely tipped to get the call after his highly impressive debut campaign with the Dragons. He’s very much a modern day second row, with his athleticism, physicality and work ethic and was seen as a prime candidate.

But elsewhere there are some real surprises.

His regional team-mate Taine Basham getting the nod over fellow opensides Jac Morgan, Tommy Reffell, Ollie Griffiths and Dan Thomas is perhaps the selection that will spark the most debate.

Basham is a fine player, who brings real dynamism, but Morgan was seen as nailed on for selection after his exceptional performances for the Scarlets.

What Pivac has done here really is go back to where he began, while also acknowledging a shift in the game.

Basham was part of the first squad he selected, for the match against the Barbarians in November 2019, and he has clearly remained in his thoughts.

Explaining the selection, the New Zealander said it was a reflection of the changing nature of the breakdown.

With fewer turnovers arising from that area, his focus appears to be shifting from having an out-and-out jackal on the openside to someone who can carry the ball over the gain-line and he sees Basham as fitting that bill.

It’s a hugely competitive position, with Justin Tipuric, Ellis Jenkins, Josh Macleod and James Davies to come back into the mix next season.

So it’s a big opportunity for the 21-year-old Basham and one he will want to grab with both hands.

The uncapped selection in the centre is also an intriguing one.

Keiran Williams and Aneurin Owen were the two youngsters that appeared to be leading the way in the midfield stakes after eye-catching campaigns.

Yet it’s Cardiff’s Ben Thomas who makes it ahead of them.

That’s a telling choice because it shows Pivac moving in the direction of giving himself a second playmaking option in the back line.

Wales have seldom had such a player on board for the past decade or so, apart from a brief dabble with Owen Williams.

But Thomas is a genuine 10/12, a centre with the instincts and skills of a fly-half.

He is more than comfortable stepping into first receiver, where he can be such an influence with his passing game and his gliding running, while also providing an additional kicking option.

The 22-year-old son of British light-middleweight boxing champion Pat Thomas has the ring-craft and quick feet to dance his way out of trouble and through defences, while his offloading ability fits in with the way Pivac and Stephen Jones want to play.

He is a class act and it’s a significant selection that could signal a fresh approach in midfield, opening up a new dimension.

What do you make of the squad? Join the debate in the comments below

Thomas will also join the versatile Ioan Lloyd in providing fly-half cover, with only two specialist 10s having been picked in Callum Sheedy and Jarrod Evans.

Elsewhere, we were expecting a call for an uncapped loosehead prop with Wyn Jones on Lions duty, but perhaps not the one Pivac has gone for.

Corey Domachowski was the man being heavily tipped, but instead it’s the Ospreys’ Gareth Thomas who gets the nod.

For Thomas, it will be a chance to finally get a cap, four years on from returning from Wales’ south seas tour without one.

Now 26, he brings size and a real work-rate, while he can’t have harmed his cause with an impressive scrummaging display against Leon Brown last month.

It was actually Rhys Carre, rather than fellow Cardiff loosehead Domachowski, who Pivac mentioned as having missed out to Thomas, giving an indication of how he sees the pecking order.

Turning to the back three, there was also likely to be an opportunity there, given that Liam Williams, Louis Rees-Zammit and Josh Adams are all heading for South Africa.

So it’s proved, but again the perceived frontrunner has missed out, with no place for Mat Protheroe, who has sparkled for the Ospreys since returning home from Bristol in search of international recognition.

Instead, it’s the relatively raw Tom Rogers who has earned a place in the squad. You can see the squad in full here.

Here Pivac has gone for out-and-out pace and finishing ability, with Rogers’ individual effort against Connacht back in March having been one of the tries of the season.

The 22-year-old is still a work in progress, but he is certainly an exciting prospect and Pivac clearly likes what he sees, talking about his X-Factor.

In addition to the uncapped quintet, there are also opportunities for a number of recent newcomers to get more Test time in Sheedy, Lloyd, Willis Halaholo, Kieran Hardy, James Botham, Sam Parry, Will Rowlands and Owen Lane.

But, overall, the Kiwi coach has resisted the temptation to absolutely pack his squad with fresh faces.

Instead, he is looking to integrate them alongside seasoned campaigners.

One wondered whether Jonathan Davies might be rested, but far from it, with the 88-cap midfield man handed the captaincy.

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He will bring his vast know-how to bear alongside some talented youngsters, while it will keep him match fit should the Lions need to call on a centre.

There’s also a spot for the 95-cap Leigh Halfpenny, showing Pivac is taking this summer’s programme very seriously and is looking for results as well as development opportunities.

You’ve got further plentiful Test experience in the likes of Josh Navidi – another potential Lions cab waiting on the rank – Ross Moriarty and Hallam Amos.

Amid the squad, there are also a couple of notable recalls for club stalwarts.

Dragons scrum-half Rhodri Williams, 28, gets the shout seven years after winning the last of his three caps, with the fit-again Rhys Webb once more overlooked.

According to Pivac, it’s a case of having a look at a younger No 9 than Webb or Lloyd Williams, while stressing the door isn’t closed to those thirtysomethings.

Then, finally, there’s arguably the most deserved selection of the lot, with Josh Turnbull back three years after his last outing, having been the player of the season in regional rugby.

Based on consistent form, he simply had to be included, while he very much fits the bill in terms of the kind of big-tackling, physical blindside Pivac likes to have on board.

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