Alex Cuthbert Is Better For His Time Away . . . Says Coach Overseeing Wales’ 60-Cap Rule

Alex Cuthbert celebrates with the Six Nations trophy in 2013. Pic: Getty Images.

Alex Cuthbert Is Better For His Time Away . . . Says Coach Overseeing Wales’ 60-Cap Rule

By David Williams

Alex Cuthbert has been backed to deal with any flak which may be fired his way when he returns for Wales this weekend after four years away.

The Ospreys wing will make his first appearance in a Wales shirt since 2017 as one of five changes for the Test against Fiji on Sunday.

His most recent and 47th cap came against Georgia in the autumn series four years ago, during a period when he had become a target for booing from some fans, unhappy with his continued selection, as well as personal abuse on social media.

Cuthbert, then with Exeter Chiefs, admitted the criticism and abusive messages badly affected him, but Wales coach Wayne Pivac believes the 31-year-old’s spell in English rugby has proved beneficial.

“I think a lot of players that go away come back different people,” says Pivac.

“Rhys Priestland was in a similar boat and Dan Biggar is enjoying playing in England.

“It’s not necessarily a bad thing, but we just don’t need too many of them out there. Having that experience of coming back a better person and a better rugby player, with more experience, is not necessarily a bad thing.

“Alex has trained very well and is very much looking forward to the weekend.

“He has gone well in the Premiership. He forced his way into a very strong side and played well at the back end of last season.

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“He’s come in, he’s big and quick and he’s got a lot of repeatability in him. He’s very fit and he’s been enjoying coming into camp, working hard and getting his volume up in training.

“We think he’s good to go and we’re looking at depth. We want competition for positions. We think that Alex can add to the depth that we’re building.”

At 6ft 6ins and 16st 10lbs, Cuthbert will certainly bring power as well as experience back into the side to face Fiji.

A powerful runner and a proven try-scorer throughout his career, he won a Grand Slam in 2012 and a Six Nations title a year later, before being a Test Lion on the 2013 series victory in Australia.

Joining Exeter made Cuthbert ineligible for his national team under a Welsh Rugby Union rule that prevents players getting picked for the country if they played outside Wales and had fewer than 60 caps.

Flanker Thomas Young and scrum-half Kieran Hardy have also been recalled.

Hardy is excited at getting an opportunity to start for Wales and insists the competition for the number nine shirt can push him to new heights.

The Scarlets scrum-half has had to wait patiently for his opportunity with both Tomos Williams and Gareth Davies selected ahead of him so far this autumn.


But he will partner Dan Biggar in a new look half-back at the Principality Stadium this Sunday.

“Obviously, I’ve had to be patient the first couple of weeks with Tomos and Gareth having the first opportunities,” Hardy said.

“I think they’ve both played pretty well, but I get an opportunity this week so it is quite exciting. I think it’s a good thing.

“We definitely push each other to be better in the environment, in training and through the performances.

“It’s one of those things that you know if you don’t play well enough or you are not training well enough, then one of the other boys is more than capable of stepping in.

“We are pretty lucky in Wales with the nines we can pick from.”

Wales have yet to record a win this autumn but were significantly better against South Africa than they were against New Zealand.

And Hardy insists they have to get a win against Fiji this weekend ahead of facing Australia next weekend.


“Early on, we will look to put pressure on Fiji and play territory,” Hardy said.

“Obviously we have got a game plan around the way we want to play the game. We want to be quite expansive and take opportunities when we see them,” he said.

“It will be about building ourselves into the game, but ultimately we have spoken about the performance and trying to get a result. We came up a bit short last weekend and the boys are desperate to get a win.

“If there are opportunities to play then we will do, but we have got to earn the right to play, particularly early on.

“Fiji are quite a physical team so we might have to play through them and particularly when they get tired.

“Then we can expose them and take our chances.”


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