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Aaron Wainwright Ready To Fill Wales No.8 Role

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By David Williams

Aaron Wainwright comes into the first Test week of the 2024 Guinness Six Nations with big boots to fill but with a very settled outlook on life.

The 26-year-old looks destined to take over the No 8 shirt from the injured Taulupe Faletau and be the senior figure in the Welsh back row in what will be his sixth Championship.

He already boasts a Grand Slam and a second Six Nations title and has been to two World Cups. All that after graduating through the ranks at the Dragons, where he has just signed a new contract.

“I’m happy to have re-signed and I’m excited to see what the next couple of years have to hold. I’m a home boy and I love the Dragons,” said the 43-times capped Wainwright.

“I love turning up to Rodney Parade, seeing fans on the terraces and that’s what I want to keep doing – turning up on a Friday, Saturday or Sunday, playing well, trying to make them happy,”

As well as being a talisman at his home region, he has become an increasingly influential figure in Warren Gatland’s Welsh squad, a player capable of playing in a number of positions.

Never one to take anything for granted, Wainwright admitted to feeling “proud” to be selected again for another Wales campaign and is greatly looking forward to getting a run in his favourite position.

“I definitely prefer playing No8. I can play at No6 but whatever allows me to be in the team is fine by me,” he added.

“I’ve worked hard over the past few months and to be named in the squad again was a huge honour. These few weeks have just been about getting back into the groove of things.

“We’ve all been pushing each other in training, and everyone has fitted in really quickly. Everyone has taken on information very quickly.

“We’re expecting the standard physicality up front from Scotland this weekend and we have to stay disciplined throughout the 80 minutes. We have to make sure we stay in the game.”

Meanwhile, Marcus Smith is a major doubt for England’s opening Six Nations match against Italy after limping out of Monday’s training session.

Smith was spotted on crutches in England’s training camp in Girona before having a leg scan. His injury means Steve Borthwick’s side may be left with just two fly-halves in George Ford and the uncapped Fin Smith.

England already have a long list of injuries as several players including Manu Tuilagi, Ollie Lawrence, Anthony Watson, Luke Cowan-Dickie, George Martin and Nick Isiekwe are out.

“I have heard nothing on what he has done,” said England attack coach Richard Wigglesworth.

“Hopefully very precautionary, the medical staff here are generally like that. I have not been updated on that, since I have been back but if he is not [fit] it would definitely be a blow for us.

“It wasn’t a big incident, that’s why I was hoping it was nothing much. He was just jogging, it was never extensive but he pulled up and happened to be right next to a physio when he did it by the sideline, so they just walked off after that.”

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