Wayne Pivac has choices to make ahead of his first match in charge. Pic: Getty Images.

Wayne’s World . . . Bold, Fresh And Futuristic

Wayne Pivac is mulling over selection for his first game as Wales coach, against the Barbarians at the end of the month. The World Cup wounded might dampen the optimism of some, but not Robin Davey, who sees a silver lining around dark clouds.

Go for it – that has to be the early message for Wales’ new head coach Wayne Pivac as he prepares for his first game in charge, post-Warren Gatland, against the Barbarians on November 30.

Far from being downcast at the double whammy loss of Jonathan Davies and Rhys Patchell – not just for the Baa Baas game, but for the entire Six Nations – Wales and Pivac should be optimistic.

That is not to downplay the significance of the loss of the Scarlets pair – Davies out for six months because he needs knee surgery and Patchell for four months owing to a shoulder operation.

Both were sidelined during the World Cup and the wisdom of Davies playing on in the later stages of the tournament despite suffering the injury in the pool match against Fiji must now be thrown into doubt.

But, the loss of the two backs does present Pivac with an opportunity to experiment and try out something new.

The Barbarians fixture may be a money-spinner – nothing more given the loss of the usual autumn internationals – but it could now present a real glimpse into the future.

At 10, in the certain absence of Dan Biggar after his World Cup exertions, Pivac can now go for either Jarrod Evans or Sam Davies in the pivot role.

Evans is clearly in the driving seat after narrowly missing out on World Cup selection though he has played in fits and starts for Cardiff Blues this season until an improvement last Saturday.

Davies has been in fine form for the Dragons since his arrival from the Ospreys and with new head coach Dean Ryan giving him real responsibility he has shown he can thrive on it.

So, maybe Evans to start with Davies on the bench represents an exciting look into the future for Wales in the key playmaker’s role.

At centre, Pivac can also be bold in the absence of star man Davies. It must be tempting to recall the experienced Scott Williams, but he knows all about him. So, given the nature of the game this is another opportunity to be bold.

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Hadleigh Parkes gave his all during the World Cup, but is another player battling injuries, so Pivac could start with young Owen Watkin and then go for a variety of options alongside him

Cardiff Blues centre Willis Halaholo has just qualified for Wales on residency and is a player with real possibilities so he could be given an immediate chance while moving the hard-running Owen Lane into midfield is another possibility.

Normally a winger, Lane is adaptable and can also play in the centre. He must be brimming with confidence right now after his late World Cup call-up and cameo against South Africa in the semi-final.

Then, there is another residency qualifier in Johnny McNicholl, the New Zealander who has been operating at international quality standards for the Scarlets for some time and is now available to Wales. Pivac knows all about him.

Elsewhere, Pivac can also draw real encouragement from the back row situation where an already congested area will soon be boosted further by the return of world class Taulupe Faletau and Cardiff Blues skipper Ellis Jenkins.

And if he can stay fit and string some games together, Dragons flanker Ollie Griffiths can come into the equation as well, while teammate Taine Basham has been earmarked as one for the future.

Add them to World Cup men Justin Tipuric, Aaron Wainwright, Ross Moriarty, Josh Navidi, Aaron Shingler and James Davies and Pivac has an embarrassment of riches at his disposal.

At prop Rhys Carre, a real bolter for the World Cup after such limited experience, has shown he has a big future ahead of him, too.

If only the regions reflected the amount of individual talent that’s emerging. Three of the teams head into Europe this weekend with little form behind them.

The Ospreys, riddled with injuries and without their World Cup stars, have lost five of their six Guinness Pro 14 League games while the Blues and Dragons have won just two of their six matches, and are also lacking their World Cup players.

How the Dragons, with a small squad anyway, are missing Wainwright, Moriarty, Elliot Dee and Cory Hill.

Only the Scarlets have enjoyed some form, winning five of their six matches under innovative new coach Brad Mooar, recently arrived from New Zealand.

It looks like being a rough ride for the regions in Europe, but there is still plenty for Pivac to be encouraged about.

 

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