The Wales rugby squad headlines you can expect as new face to be called up and scrum-half could be dropped

Wales are due to announce their squad for the upcoming autumn internationals this week and head coach Wayne Pivac has much to ponder.

An official date for the announcement is yet to be confirmed but players are expected to be arriving in camp a week today as they begin preparations to face the All Blacks on October 30.

That will be followed by the visit of South Africa a week later, then Fiji and finally Australia.

It’s a tough schedule, made harder by the fact none of Wales’ England-based players are available to face the All Blacks and injury problems are mounting.

So what headlines could we see when the team is announced?

Here are a few storylines to keep an eye on…

Morgan or Reffell to get first call-up

With Josh Navidi expected to join Justin Tipuric and James Botham on the injury list after picking up an injury in his comeback game against the Bulls on Saturday, Pivac suddenly has an issue at openside.

Ellis Jenkins has looked good in his early season outings but was not part of the matchday squad for Cardiff last weekend, suggesting he is still feeling his way through his return.

That would pour cold water on his readiness for Test rugby, meaning the back row could have an inexperienced look about it.

Taine Basham has almost guaranteed his selection after a barnstorming display against Connacht, but there appears room for another openside.

Tommy Reffell and Jac Morgan have been earning rave reviews for their performances so far this season but Reffell has one major thing counting against him.

Whilst his performances may demand attention, the fact he plays for Leicester Tigers makes him unavailable to face New Zealand and that could deny him a call-up.

Morgan, meanwhile, was a surprise omission last summer but looks ready to make the jump.

One of them looks destined to make it, while the other will be disappointed.

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Has Webb done enough?

Recent selections have suggested that Pivac has moved on from Rhys Webb but he had started the season in fine form before a disappointing display against the Sharks. But Kieran Hardy and Gareth Davies have been involved in a stuttering start to the season for the Scarlets, so nobody is assured of anything.

Webb got the better of Tomos Williams when the pair faced off in a derby match in round two, and it might be enough to convince Pivac that he’s worth another go.

Especially in light of the fact that neither of the Scarlets duo have really pulled up any trees so far this term.

We know the Wales boss is not afraid to drop players in order to spark a reaction from them and he may do that in this campaign with his scrum-halves.

Cardiff’s Williams heads into it at the head of the pack, but Webb could earn a recall.

Tomos Williams and Gareth Anscombe

Is Anscombe fit enough? Could Sheedy be dropped?

The big storyline from this announcement will be the fly-halves.

First of all, Gareth Anscombe has performed well so far this season as he continues on his return from that serious knee injury that kept him out of the 2019 Rugby World Cup.

However, in an ideal world, Pivac would probably not want to pick him and expose him to top level rugby so early on in his return. The jump up to Test match intensity is significant and there would be questions over whether it would be too much too soon.

But given that Dan Biggar and Callum Sheedy are both unavailable to face the All Blacks, Pivac needs No.10s.

Rhys Priestland will likely be involved and if Anscombe can’t join him, the Dragons’ Sam Davies is looking like next cab off the rank after an impressive outing against Connacht.

But on the subject of Sheedy, it is fair to question whether his form of late warrants a call up. After Bristol’s recent defeat to Harlequins, Bristol Live graded his performance a 4/10 as they labelled him: ‘Struggling and out of form’.

That being said, Pivac has invested a lot of time in Sheedy and it would be a surprise if they were to cast him aside now. It’ll definitely be one to keep an eye on though.

Scott Williams to return

The centre hasn’t played for Wales since before the 2019 Rugby World Cup but has looked like his old self again so far this season.

After an injury-ravaged few seasons at the Ospreys, he is back with his old pal Jonathan Davies in the Scarlets midfield and reminding us of his talents.

Williams is an all round talent when he is firing on all cylinders and would be a handy addition to the Welsh midfield.

You’d expect Pivac to bring him back in on the evidence that we’ve seen of late, probably taking the place of someone like Owen Watkin.

There will be some concern over an eye injury that Williams suffered against Munster, though. Given his rotten luck with injuries in recent time, you just hope that’s not a serious one.

Jonah Holmes to start campaign as full-back front-runner

Pivac has also got a real issue at full-back.

Leigh Halfpenny is a long-term absentee after suffering a knee ligament injury in the summer and Liam Williams is struggling to make the All Blacks game after having his appendix removed.

So there’s the two first choice options out of the equation.

Next cab off the rank, Hallam Amos, has looked a little out of sorts for Cardiff in recent weeks and is not in the kind of form you want players in ahead of the visit of New Zealand.

So where does that leave Pivac?

It leaves him looking at Jonah Holmes, who scored two tries against Connacht over the weekend. Yes, Holmes is operating on the wing for the Dragons but he has plenty of experience at full-back and is high on confidence.

For me, he has to be the front-runner to start at full-back against New Zealand. The only other option Pivac has is to put Josh Adams there, but that would mean moving one of the most lethal finishers in the game out of his usual position.

Starting Holmes at 15 would be the better call.


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