Wales’ unluckiest rugby players and why they were left out of Six Nations squad

The trouble with sport is that one person’s joy invariably comes with someone else’s disappointment.

It’s as true in selection as anything else, perhaps more so.

And picking a team is subjective, even if modern-day coaches like to believe they are better informed than the rest of us because of the availability of statistics and data that may or may not reveal how many steps a player walked on the third Sunday in December or often he or she sneezed two Wednesdays ago.

Sometimes, the difference between players will be wafer thin and the call could be decided by the flick of a coin.

Undoubtedly, some will feel they are unlucky after Wayne Pivac’s Wales squad announcement for the Six Nations.

We look at some of the most unfortunate players in Welsh rugby today.

Owen Lane

He looked Cardiff’s most dangerous back against Harlequins last Friday evening, running hard, making 108 metres with ball in hand and scoring two tries.

There’s a school of thought that suggests his defence still needs attention, though.

With Wales short on experience, Alex Cuthbert pips Lane to the place.Pivac said: “I guess we’ve gone with Alex Cuthbert in that position. We don’t just look at club form, obviously, we look at form at the top level. 48 Test caps, and a fantastic performance I thought against Fiji, that’s got Alex the nod.

“We’ve had a conversation with Owen. Stephen [Jones] spoke to him this morning around things he needs to keep working on. He’s probably one injury away from joining the group.”

Cuthbert defended well for the Ospreys against Racing 92 last weekend, other than when he put in a tackle on Teddy Baubigny which has landed the wing a date with a disciplinary panel on Thursday.

He’ll hope the meeting passes without consequences.

Nicky Smith

This is a strange one.

Rewind a two or three months and Smith did a demolition job on the Munster scrum, with his direct opponent conceding four penalties. Had it been a boxing match, John Ryan would have been counted out. Smith was fired up, and the Irish couldn’t handle him.

He is also excellent over the ball.

Pivac and Jonathan Humphreys evidently see Rhys Carre as a player who can be developed, but on form grounds Smith can count himself unlucky.

Nicky Smith in action for the Ospreys

Thomas Young

Dai Young’s son featured in the autumn squad but hasn’t made it this time, with competition intense in the back row despite Wales having multiple injuries.

If it’s any consolation to him, Wayne Pivac has shown throughout his Wales tenure he is willing to recall players if their form is good enough.

Taine Basham and Jac Morgan are specialist opensides in the squad, with Ellis Jenkins able to play there as well. Young is an excellent player but on this occasion there wasn’t room for him.

Ioan Lloyd

Maybe memories of the Bristol player having major problems defensively at Test level for Wales in the autumn of 2020 are still counting against him.

He didn’t look ready at that point, like a schoolboy who had strayed into a men’s game.

But he is a game-changer with uncommon gifts and there is an argument he should have been thrown a wild card, as a handy option to have on the bench in a tight game.

Rhys Webb

Tomas Williams has returned to form in recent weeks and will go into the championship as Wales’ number one scrum-half.

But no Welsh No. 9 other than Williams has been playing better than Webb this season.

He has led the Ospreys superbly and been to the fore with his all-round game.

You’d assume Pivac was too big a person to hold a grudge after Webb’s comments last year about preferring to be outside the national camp and with the Ospreys and his partner during the pandemic rather than be third-choice scrum-half with Wales.

Pivac has been out to watch Webb since then, so that can’t be the reason why he’s been left out.

Even so, it must have been tight call at scrum-half.

Rhys Webb is having a strong season

Scott Williams

He’d been in top-class form for the Scarlets but went down with the ship in Bordeaux as they lost heavily last weekend.

There were concerns Williams may have picked up a bump after being taken off early in the second half.

After so many injuries in recent seasons, he may also still be moving back up the gears in terms of his durability.

James Botham

He picked up a bang to the head against Edinburgh.

It’s a shame because he’d been on top of his game for Cardiff, as one of their best performers in the European games against Toulouse and Harlequins before Christmas.

Botham is a physical customer who is versatile as well.

Doubtless, he’ll be back in the mix going forward.

James Botham is treated by medics during Cardiff’s game with Edinburgh

Morgan Morris

What does the most consistent No. 8 in Welsh rugby look like?

Look no further than this guy.

Morris has all the skills. He turns ball over, carries intelligently and can usually be relied on to defend well. Rarely does he go missing in action.

His old Swansea RFC pal James Ratti has taken a No. 8 spot along with Aaron Wainwright. The size of the 6ft 4in, 18st 4lb, Ratti may have proved the difference, while he banged in a big performance in opposition to Harlequins and England’s highly rated Alex Dombrandt last time out.

Will Griffiths

Quietly, Griffiths has been making a name for himself.

He’s someone who does his talking on the pitch.

He can also play at lock and in the back row.

But Wales seem to staking their chips on Christ Tshiunza in that respect, while Seb Davies can also double up and so can James Ratti.

Keep an eye on Griffiths, though.

Tommy Reffell

Out of sight, out of mind?

Probably not.

After all, Reffell plays for Leicester, hardly a million miles away and their games are shown regularly on TV.

Like Thomas Young, it just seems the competition in the back row has put paid to his chances this time.

He is having a strong season, mind.

Rhys Davies

There are not many better defensive second rows in Wales than this guy.

He is tough and doesn’t so much tackle opponents as clatter them.

Davies is also good at stealing ball.

Perhaps Pivac will be looking to him to develop other areas of his game.

But he’s someone who has potential.

Want the latest Welsh rugby news sent straight to you? Look no further.


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