Dafydd Jenkins

CARDIFF, WALES - FEBRUARY 04: Wales player Dafydd Jenkins in action during the Six Nations Rugby match between Wales and Ireland at Principality Stadium on February 04, 2023 in Cardiff, Wales. (Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)

Warren Gatland Gets Ready To Bring In The New Breed . . . With Dafydd Jenkins, Christ Tshiunza And Tommy Reffell Set For Wales Call

By David Williams

Wales coach Warren Gatland is considering major changes to his side ahead of their Six Nations match against Scotland on Saturday.

Gatland is looking to reinvigorate the Welsh pack with youngsters Dafydd Jenkins and Christ Tshiunza after a disappointing 34-10 loss to Ireland in the first round of the tournament.

The head coach is contemplating giving Exeter Chiefs captain Jenkins his first Test start, while Jenkins’ teammate Tshiunza could also earn a place in the starting lineup, depending on his fitness.

Gatland is weighing up changes to the entire Welsh back row, with Tommy Reffell being looked at for the No. 7 shirt, Jac Morgan potentially shifting from blindside to No. 8, and Tshiunza possibly filling in at six.

The head coach may also recall Lions prop Wyn Jones in the front row.

Jenkins has had a stunning season for Exeter, becoming the youngest-ever captain in the Premiership when he led the Chiefs out against London Irish in November, a role he has resumed since.

It is believed that Gatland may keep the same back line that started in the first round, but the starting pack is expected to be wholly different.

The official team will be announced on Thursday with centre Joe Hawkins becoming a real centre of attention in the Welsh midfield after his performances in his opening two games.

Now, the rising Ospreys star is hoping it will be third time lucky for him at Murrayfield in Round 2 of the 2023 Guinness Six Nations.

The 20-year-old made his debut in the loss to Australia in the Autumn Nations Series and then made his championship debut in the defeat against Ireland last weekend.

If he holds onto his place to face the Scots, he will be working hard for that elusive first victory.

Last year he led the Wales U20 to a brace of victories over their Scottish counterparts, but this year the stakes have been raised for him.

“When you’re in the Under 20 side, you see the senior team playing and you always have ambitions of going on and playing for them. I probably didn’t think it would happen as quickly as it has,” said Hawkins.

“All you can do is take care of business back at your region and hope you get a bit of recognition internationally. I wasn’t expecting it to happen as quickly as this and I was just focusing on playing well for the Ospreys, and then letting whatever happens, happen.

“Young people coming in gives a bit of excitement, it is all new. All the youngsters are keen to get involved and train hard, and maybe that gives the senior boys a bit of a boost.

“When you come into a squad with big characters, you want to make an impact in training and in the games – you can’t go into your shell.

“They would rather it if you are vocal and demanding on the field, so that is what you have got to try and do. I’ve learned to be both vocal and bold in a bid to compete with the other players in camp.”

Hawkins has been a player with more than 100 caps inside him, Dan Biggar, and another, George North, outside him.

But what has made the biggest difference to him has been the faith shown in him by the coaching team.

“We’ve had a new coaching set-up come in, so we’ve had to get used to a slightly different style of things with our attack. We’re building combinations and they will definitely grow the more time we spend together,” added Hawkins.

“I guess what you want is a bit of backing from the head coach to go out and play and do your thing. Go out there and be confident, so it has given me a lot of confidence.

“It has been a bit surreal being out there on the training field. I guess it’s just trying to take it all in, learn from the experience of the senior players and then put it into your game.

“I tried to get involved as much as possible in the game against Ireland and I was happy overall with my performance.

“If selected, I will be really excited to play against Scotland because it’s always a good atmosphere at Murrayfield.

“It was a disappointing result against the Irish, although there were some positives to take out of it. Stats-wise, we got into their 22 as often as they got into ours, but they were just a bit more clinical.”

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