By David Parsons
The great debate about who should be in at No 10 for Wales is raging once again following the retirement of Dan Biggar.
Not only that, Gareth Anscombe is unavailable to Warren Gatland for the Six Nations because of his club commitments in Japan, Sam Costelow and Owen Williams are both currently injured and Jarrod Evans is ineligible following his switch to Harlequins.
Where the debate used to centre around Dai Watkins or Barry John, John or Phil Bennett, Bennett or David Richards, Gareth Davies or Malcolm Dacey, and Stephen Jones or James Hook, now it is a question of finding the right person to fill the famous jersey against Scotland on 3 February when the Six Nations starts.
— BBC Sport Wales (@BBCSportWales) November 14, 2023
Costelow is out of action until the new year with hamstring and shoulder injuries picked up in the win over the Barbarians, while Williams should be back for the Ospreys before Christmas.
Then, of course, there is the new option, Ioan Lloyd. As a teenager, Lloyd had two global superstars to learn from while taking his first steps in professional rugby at Bristol Bears.
Playing alongside Charles Piutau and Semi Radradra in the Bears back line allowed him to get up close and personal with two of the greatest attacking talents in the Gallagher Premiership.
Watching the scarlets v lions game and listening to the hype surrounding Ioan Lloyd as the next welsh 10! Nice player but obviously he left Bristol Bears because he couldn’t get regular games at 10 because another Welsh outside half was keeping him out?
— Wesley Greening (@wesgreeing10) November 11, 2023
His versatility, as well as his talent, marked him out as a potential superstar in the making himself, and he won two caps for Wales while he was at Ashton Gate – coming on as a centre and full back in the Autumn Nation Cup games against Georgia and Italy.
But last summer he put his foot down and turned his back on his days as a utility option – he played in every position behind the scrum for the Bears – and opted to return ‘home’ to play for Scarlets – as an outside half.
Many saw it as a slightly strange move, given he was heading to the same club that had just steered Costelow into the Welsh side at No 10. As luck would have it, Costelow’s involvement with Wales at the World Cup and then against the Barbarians, gave him a free run when the United Rugby Championship campaign kicked-off.
Then his untimely injury meant Lloyd has been able to bed himself down in the Scarlets side through to the New Year.
That has put him in pole position to show Gatland what he had got in his locker.
— Scarlets Rugby (@scarlets_rugby) November 13, 2023
“I absolutely loved my time at Bristol, got some great experiences playing in different positions, but I am a No 10 and that’s where I wanted to play. I needed to take this step to be able to do that,” admits Lloyd.
“The dream is to play for Wales at No 10, and that’s what I’m aiming to do. That’s not in my hands, so all I can do is play as well as I can to help the Scarlets as much as I can.
“I have to take advantage of the run of games I’m going to get with Sam injured. The more game time I can get in the No 10 shirt , the more experience I will gain. I’m just trying to learn and build as much as I can.
“There is massive history in the Scarlets No 10 jersey, and some big boots to fill, so I just hope I can do it proud. It feels like a new challenge, although I’m just re-visiting something I used to do.
“I’m loving being back at No 10, but there are a lot of things to learn. I’m learning as I go and enjoying learning from the players around me.”
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🔵 Cardiff 7/4
⚪️ Ospreys 7/4
🔴 Scarlets 3/1
🟠 Dragons 9/1https://t.co/QIs3oxq3yo
Who would your money be on?
— DragonBet (@DragonBetWales) November 15, 2023
Inside him he has two Welsh international scrum halves in Gareth Davies and Kieran Hardy, while outside him he has four international centres to supply in Jonathan Davies, Johnny and Scott Williams, and Joe Roberts.
But what happens when Costelow returns? Will he find himself returning to his utility back days at Bristol?
“I don’t want to be thrown into different positions all over the field anymore. When I signed, I was happy to go head-to-head with Sam for the No 10 jersey – I see it as healthy competition,” added Lloyd.
“I admire Sam, he’s a great player and I admire his playing style. The chance to come home to Wales and play for a club like Scarlets was just too big an opportunity to pass over.
“I’m here to learn off the likes of Sam, Gareth and Jonathan Davies. I’ve grown up watching Gareth and Jonathan, and I’m still a bit star struck playing between them.
“I need to continue to improve on my strengths and then develop my game management skills. That takes time, but I’m trying to learn as quickly as I can.”
— BKT United Rugby Championship (URC) (@URCOfficial) November 11, 2023