By Gareth James
Wales coach Wayne Pivac has praised Christ Tshiunza and suggested the powerful Exeter forward is about to make a big breakthrough this autumn.
Pivac capped 20-year-old Tshiunza during last season’s autumn Tests, making his debut as a replacement against Fiji in Cardiff.
The versatile back-five forward has continued on an upward curve, making prominent contributions during Exeter’s current Gallagher Premiership campaign.
And that progression was highlighted through a blistering two-try display, including the match-winning score, when Exeter beat Harlequins 43-42 last month.
“People like Christ we’ve had in the environment before and he has done well coming off the bench in two Tests,” Pivac said.
“He has then gone and built on that for his club and we know a lot more about him.
Top performer ⭐️
The @landrover_uk Player of the Week is…@christtshiunzaa | @exeterchiefs #LandRoverRugby #LRFansXV #GallagherPrem
— Premiership Rugby (@premrugby) September 28, 2022
“I was down in Exeter last week and we have a lot of dialogue with the English coaches who are coaching our players.
“He is making great progress at club level, they’ve got a great setup there, a great coaching team, and he is learning a lot. You can see that in his game.
“Christ is a lot more confident than when he first came in here. He is really maturing and developing nicely.
“He is going to be a big player for the future, definitely.”
It would be no surprise to see Tshiunza, who was born in the Democratic Republic of Congo but moved to Wales 12 years ago, feature in Wales’ matchday 23 against New Zealand on November 5.
Argentina, Georgia and Australia then follow the All Blacks on Wales’ autumn schedule, so opportunities could present themselves for a player whose ability to feature in the second row or back row makes him an invaluable asset.
Pivac added: “It’s just great to see the development and the evolving of these players.
Interested to see what Tipuric being captain means for the balance in the back row, with both Christ Tshiunza and Tommy Reffell playing quality regular rugby for Chiefs and Tigers respectively. https://t.co/kFTArhdodc
— Gareth Axenderrie (@gaxenderrie) October 25, 2022
“It bodes well, not only for the World Cup next year – hopefully, we get a great pool of players without too many injuries for that – but looking through to 2027, there is a core of young guys there to take the team forward.
“What we have to do is learn from past World Cups and make sure we have as much depth as we possibly can.
“We have done that over the last three years, and now it is about trying to settle on a squad.”
Pivac’s back-row resources appear particularly strong, galvanised by a fit-again Justin Tipuric, who has been named captain for the autumn and is poised for a first Wales appearance in 19 months due to a serious shoulder injury that saw him miss all of last season.
“Justin has, like a number of players, suffered a serious injury in the last 18 months and done exceptionally well to work hard to get back to this level of the game,” Pivac said.
“I admire those players that get through those dark times, and when they come out the other side they are generally a lot stronger for it.
“He is, in a way, fortunate he is at a stage in his career where he understands and knows these things can happen.
“He has probably had a few injuries before, but that was probably a particularly nasty one. I am just pleased to have him back available for Wales.”