Holmes To Join Moriarty . . . But Watson Will Be Working For The Other Side

Jonah Holmes is Gatland's bolter in Autumn series squad but he could last the distance. Pic: Getty Images

Holmes To Join Moriarty . . . But Watson Will Be Working For The Other Side

Holmes, Watson, Moriarty – this season’s Wales v England game could have a retro fictional feel to it, but Leicester Tigers coach Geordan Murphy believes there’s no fantasy about Jonah Holmes’ breakthrough to international rugby.

The Tigers wing – born in Stockport, but able to pull on a red shirt thanks to a Welsh grandfather – was one of two surprise inclusions in Warren Gatland’s 37-man squad for the autumn series.

Holmes, who scored 10 tries in 11 games for Leicester last season, has been given a leg-up by injuries to Hallam Amos and Owen Lane, but Murphy insists it was only a matter of time before the 26-year-old make the Test breakthrough.

“He has taken his opportunity since coming into the side and been very impressive at the back for us,” said the former Ireland star.

“We have always known how much of an attacking weapon he is, and it’s a just reward for his performances so far this season.”

Ospreys wing Luke Morgan, a renowned Sevens specialist, was also been called up by Gatland for games next month against Scotland, Australia, Tonga and South Africa.

But it is elementary that Holmes is more of a mystery to Welsh fans and that’s no s**t, Sherlock.

Gatland has claimed Holmes has been on the Wales management’s investigative radar for some time – a beneficiary of the greater attention given to those Welsh qualified in the UK as well as further afield.

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But at 26, even his breakthrough into the top level in the Gallagher Premiership has come relatively late in his career after spells with Rosslyn Park, Henley Hawks, London Scottish, London Welsh and Yorkshire Carnegie. But there was sufficient potential for him to make an England U20 squad in 2011.

Holmes eventually made his Premiership debut for Leicester against Wasps – another former club – in December 2017.

“He had to wait for his opportunity but when he got a chance on the wing he played well,” added Murphy.

“I think Jonah again has played well but he’s got another couple of gears in him and I think fans will be pleasantly surprised when he starts playing to his real ability how good he can be.”

But Wales fans may have to wait a while before they can assess Holmes’ abilities. The opening match of the November series, against Scotland, falls outside of the international window, meaning English-based players are unlikely to be released.

That would mean an equally unlikely debut against Australia and it may not be until Wales play Tonga that Holmes is handed his first start.

“He has been on the Welsh exiles list, and his form for Leicester has been pretty outstanding in terms of the number of tries he has scored,” said Gatland.

“He was man of the match against Northampton at Twickenham a couple of weeks ago, when he played exceptionally well.

“It gives us an opportunity to bring him in and have a look at him. He has played at full-back and on the wing and he is quick and physical as well.

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“I rang him last week. He has been on the exiles list since 2016 as a player to look out for and keep an eye on. But until we had selection yesterday, you can’t guarantee him anything. I had spoken to him and said we were interested, but that did not give him any guarantees that he would be selected in the squad.”

While Gatland welcomed back eight British and Irish Lions to his squad following Wales’ successful summer tour of Argentina, including skipper Alun Wyn Jones, centre Jonathan Davies and hooker Ken Owens, he is also without a number of injured players.

Scarlets flankers Aaron Shingler and James Davies, Bath number eight Taulupe Faletau, Cardiff Blues back-row forward Josh Navidi and Ospreys centre Scott Williams are among the absentees, together with fly-half Rhys Patchell, who is currently sidelined because of concussion.

Assessing Patchell’s situation, Gatland added: “We are concerned about him. I need to reiterate and point out that player welfare is the most important thing for us.

“Rhys is going to come in with us – as will (Cardiff Blues fly-half) Jarrod (Evans) – and we’ve even had the discussion we might not even play him in this campaign.  He will come in with us, we will look after him and he can train.

“I haven’t had this discussion with the Scarlets or their medical team, but, having spoken to Prav (Welsh Rugby Union national medical manager Prav Mathema), my view would be that if he did get another knock in the next game or in the next four to six weeks, then he probably needs to do what George North did and take the rest of the season off to get himself right.

“We will assess where he is. The most important thing for players these days is their welfare, and we will not be taking any risks with Rhys or pushing him to get out on the field unless he’s 100 per cent comfortable and confident, and we can see that confidence in his game.”


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