Ospreys Deserve Dominant Role In Wales’ Six Nations Squad

Wales' Adam Beard looks on during the Rugby World Cup 2023, Pool C match at the OL Stadium in Lyon, France. Picture date: Sunday September 24, 2023. (Photo by Bradley Collyer/PA Images via Getty Images)

Ospreys Deserve Dominant Role In Wales’ Six Nations Squad

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By Tomas Marks

As we wait for the Welsh Six Nations squad to be announced for the 2024 campaign there are a few interesting selections for Warren Gatland’s coaching team to consider.

The general considerations that the coaches will take into account are player form and performance, injuries, balancing experience and youth, versatility, set piece strength, leadership qualities, previous international experience and cultural fit to a Gatland squad.

If you had to pick a team based on form and performance it would contain a pack with a heavy contingent of Ospreys as they have been the dominant Welsh pack this season.

Further to this they are top of the charts for the set piece in the European Challenge Cup with 100% lineout and 100% scrum.

In the front row the biggest issue is the fitness of Dewi Lake having suffered a hamstring tear against Perpignan.

The outcome of the scan could mar the depth at hooker but there are three other in form hookers in 38-times capped Ryan Elias, seven-times capped Sam Parry and Cardiff hooker and captain Liam Belcher.

Gareth Thomas and Tomas Francis are likely to anchor the scrum at 1 and 3.

It will be very interesting whether Gatland and Jonathan Humpheys are going to persist with Corey Domachowski or give an opportunity for Wyn Jones to add to his 48 caps, or give the mercurial 26-year-old Rhys Carre another opportunity to shine in a Welsh shirt.

On the money side of the scrum, i.e the tighthead, the options are either Sam Wainwright, Dillon Lewis, Harri O’Connor or Leon Brown.

Unfortunately for Brown he struggled in the scrum against the Scarlets, in the mini Welsh trial.

In the second row and engine room there are players waiting to fire for Wales.

Adam Beard has now become the first forward to be named on the team sheet and has led the Ospreys superbly this season.

Beard is likely to be named the captain of Wales, unless Dewi Lake makes a miraculous recovery for the opening game against Scotland.

Alongside Beard will be Racing giant Will Rowlands with Exeter captain Dafydd Jenkins the other very able backup.

Another option at second row is Teddy Williams or the in form James Fender. However, there is speculation over the fitness of Fender after a shoulder injury last week.

Normally in the back row we have a plethora of options but due to the knee injury of Jac Morgan, shoulder injury of Taine Plumtree, foot injury to Christ Tshinuza and the loss of form of Taine Basham, there are opportunities for new candidates.

In the starting back row Tommy Reffel is likely to wear the renowned seven shirt with Aaron Wainwright at eight.

There seems to be a vacancy at number six with Gatland likely to exclude stalwart Dan Lydiate for a younger product.

The six who has been dominant in recent weeks is Ospreys brute James Ratti. He’s very much a Gatland type player, weighing in at 120kg, standing at 6ft, five and is a decade younger than Lydiate.

The other option at six is former Wales U20s captain Alex Mann and he’s made the most tackles in the URC with 114 tackles and an impressive 91% tackle success.

I wouldn’t be surprised to see the selection of Taulupe Faletau as he’s world class and meant to be back in contention in mid February.

Christ Tshinuza is in the final stages of his recovery from a foot injury and he’s worth a risk as it’s his time to shine in a new World Cup cycle.

The other back rowers in contention are Josh Macleod, James Botham, Morgan Morse, Morgan Morris and Mackenzie Martinto

Morgan Morse turned 19 years old yesterday and this could be his best ever birthday present if he gets selected for the 2024 campaign.

The only other number eight I can recall scoring a similar scorching 50 metre try – as he managed for the Ospreys against Cardiff – is Scott Quinnell, with his first international try against France in 1994.

Having covered the piano movers it’s now onto the piano players and there is healthy competition within the Welsh backline.

At scrum half we continue to be blessed with Gareth Davies, Tomos Williams and Kieran Hardy. Nobody else really comes into the frame but there will be opportunities in this cycle for Reuben Morgan Williams and Archie Hughes if they continue their upward trajectory.

At fly half there is an opportunity for a player to grab and own the shirt. Sam Costelow is likely to be given the nod but he needs to rediscover his form after a lengthy injury spell following the World Cup quarter finals.

The other contenders at ten are Owen Williams and new kid on the block Dan Edwards.

Edwards wasn’t really in the frame but he has dazzled since his debut for the Ospreys in November.

The centre partnership worked really well in France and Nick Tompkins and George North will reunite to shine in the Six Nations.

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Johnny Williams started against the Barbarians but has struggled with his form and his frustrating red card could eliminate him from the squad.

That could open the door for 26-year-old and 36-times capped international Owen Watkin as he has been in decent form for the Ospreys.

Joe Roberts has shown glimpses of his quality at 13 for the Scarlets and he could add to his one cap.

Kieran Williams keeps knocking on the door for the Ospreys but he needs to show more in the coming months to get his first chance.

The back three picks itself with Louis Rees-Zammit, Josh Adams and Rio Dyer but it will be fascinating to see the other preferred options.

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Gatland is pretty consistent with his selection and Cai Evans has a unique point of difference compared to other backs with his goal kicking. I

He could become that Leigh Halfpenny-type figure, converting pressure into points and integral at international level.

Mason Grady will be a definite pick and his versatility as a centre and winger will be useful in this competition.

Immanuel Feyi-Woboso has been in electric form for Exeter but it will be compelling whether he chooses Wales or England.

Tom Rogers was a call up to the Wales World Cup training squad, played well against the Barbarians in November, and despite a quiet season he has the ability and courage to shine at the international stage.

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Rogers can cover full back and wing which makes him a good option at back three.

At full back Wales could opt for the in-form Cameron Winnett or the scintillating counter attacker Ioan Lloyd.

Lloyd has impressed since his arrival at the Scarlets and sits second in the URC with 30 defenders beaten.

However, there have been deficiencies in his defence and kicking game which could be an area of concern for the selectors.

Winnett is the opposite type of player to Lloyd as he has calmness and poise in the air, backfield positional command and dominates kicking battles. It wouldn’t be a shock to see the inclusion of both players.

Whatever happens with selection, Gatland will galvanise this group and make them much more competitive than the fifth-placed finish in 2023.

Tomas Marks’ squad for the opening match v Scotland:

15 Louis Rees Zammit, 14 Rio Dyer, 13 George North, 12 Nick Tompkins, 11 Josh Adams; 10 Sam Costelow, 9 Gareth Davies; 1 Gareth Thomas, 2 Ryan Elias, 3 Tomas Francis, 4 Will Rowlands, 5 Adam Beard ©, 6 James Ratti, 7 Tommy Reffel, 8 Aaron Wainwright.

16 Sam Parry, 17 Corey Domachawski, 18 Sam Wainwright , 19 Dafydd Jenkins, 20 James Botham , 21 Tomos Williams, 22 Owen Williams, 23 Mason Grady

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