Lions’ Welsh contingent set to swell – 5 things from Wales’ Six Nations campaign

Andrew Baldock, PA Rugby Union Correspondent
·3-min read

Wales’ Guinness Six Nations Grand Slam hopes ended with a dramatic 32-30 defeat against France in Paris.

They can still win the title, but Les Bleus could snatch it from them by recording a comprehensive victory over Scotland next Friday.

Here, the PA news agency looks at five things to emerge from Wales’ Six Nations campaign.

Wayne Pivac has silenced the doubters

2021 Six Nations Preview Package
Wales head coach Wayne Pivac (Ben Birchall/PA)

Pivac faced a daunting job when he succeeded Warren Gatland as head coach in November 2019, with Wales having won four Six Nations titles, three Grand Slams and reached two World Cup semi-finals under his fellow New Zealander’s direction. A tough first year in charge followed, with Wales winning just three Tests – against Italy, twice, and Georgia – but they ended the current Six Nations campaign just seconds away from achieving a Grand Slam. Pivac had plenty of critics during a testing 2020, yet he has stuck to his guns, made some big calls and deserves immense credit.

Wales firmly on course for 2023 World Cup

Pivac made it clear from the outset that his whole planning and strategy is geared towards the next World Cup in France. And nearing the halfway point of a four-year cycle, Wales are in a strong position. The head coach has vast experience to call upon – Wales’ starting line-up against France on Saturday contained a record 987 caps – and he is also developing an array of exciting new talent, spearheaded by wing Louis Rees-Zammit, fly-half Callum Sheedy and flanker James Botham. The future is bright.

Captain marvel still has super-powers

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Wales skipper Alun Wyn Jones will be 36 in September, but there is no sign of him slowing down any time soon. With a world record 157 Test match appearances under his belt, he continues to clock on for shift after shift, leading from the front and hitting performance levels that never dip. Jones’ existing contract with the Welsh Rugby Union and Ospreys expires at the end of this season, yet he looks to have plenty more left in the tank amid shortening odds of him captaining the British and Irish Lions against South Africa this summer.

Louis Rees-Zammit set for greatness

Scotland v Wales – Guinness Six Nations – BT Murrayfield Stadium
Louis Rees-Zammit scores a try for Wales (Jane Barlow/PA)

At the age of just 20, Gloucester wing Rees-Zammit has effortlessly taken to Test rugby. He scored four tries during the Six Nations campaign and was millimetres away from a fifth during Wales’ defeat in Paris. Just nine games into his international career he is a box-office attraction, combining electric pace with mesmeric lines of running, and opposition defences know that they cannot relax for one minute against him.

Wales players to roar with Lions

British and Irish Lions Head Coach Announcement – Hilton Syon Park
British and Irish Lions head coach Warren Gatland (Adam Davy/PA_

If the Lions’ summer series against world champions South Africa goes ahead, then it appears a strong bet that Wales will have at least a dozen players in head coach Warren Gatland’s squad. There are obvious selections like Alun Wyn Jones, Liam Williams, George North, Ken Owens, Justin Tipuric and Taulupe Faletau, but others have moved prominently into view – players such as Louis Rees-Zammit, Tomos Williams, Wyn Jones and Josh Navidi. Competition is intense in many areas, but expect a sizeable contingent on the back of a strong Six Nations season.