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Pivac gives low-down on Wales’ newcomers

Gloucester wing Louis Rees-Zammit starring for Wales U18.

Pivac gives low-down on Wales’ newcomers

Wales head coach Wayne Pivac has given the low-down on the new faces he has selected in his first Guinness Six Nations squad.

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The uncapped quartet of Louis Rees-Zammit, Nick Tompkins, Will Rowlands and WillGriff John have all been called into the 38-man group, who will begin preparations to defend their Grand Slam crown on Monday.

Scarlets back Johnny McNicholl will also be in line for a full debut, although he played a key role in Pivac’s maiden victory as Wales head coach over the Barbarians in November.

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Former Wales Under-18 flyer Rees-Zammit has enjoyed a record breaking introduction to the senior ranks at Gloucester. The 18-year-old wing became the Cherry and Whites’ youngest player to pull on the jersey in the Premiership and Heineken Champions Cup, before cementing his place in Pivac’s thoughts with a historic hat trick against Northampton.

“I’m always a great believer that if you’re good enough you’re old enough and he’s showing signs he’s maturing as a rugby player at a very young age,” Pivac said of the teenager. “He’s got gas, which at the top level of the game you can’t beat, and he’s a great finisher.

“He’s not the finished product as he knows and we know but it will be great to get him in the environment and start to work with him and we believe he’s got a big future in the game.”

Saracens centre Tompkins will be out to add Wales honours to a resumé that already includes European and Premiership honours. And with injuries to the likes of Jonathan Davies, Willis Halaholo and Owen Watkin still recovering from a shoulder problem, Tompkins will be hoping to muscle his way into midfield.

“I took notice when he carved the Scarlets up in the Champions Cup when he was about 20,” said Pivac. “I’ve been watching his career ever since to be quite honest. He’s gone very well.

“We’ve had a lot of contact with him in recent times. He’s a young fella who’s come through and is really confident in his game at the moment. He’s at a great club and has come on a long way in a short space of time.

“He’s more mature than his age. You can have a fantastic rugby conversation with him. There’s an excellent young player there and when you look at our centres, he fits a profile we’re looking at to get balance in that area. With Owen Watkin there, the future is bright.”

Wasps lock Will Rowlands will provide competition to the established second-rows in the Wales squad. Standing at 6ft 8in, Rowlands has made a big impact at the Ricoh Arena, winning the club’s Player of the Year award last year. And Pivac says Rowlands fits the bill for his Wales side.

“I’ve been watching him since 2015,” he said. “Stephen Jones came from Wasps, knew him and said there was a young rugby player there who’s big, athletic, an intelligent rugby player, Oxford University graduate and is Welsh qualified.

“He fits the profile of a second row we’re looking for. We did a lot of homework on the World Cup that’s just been, we looked at the All Blacks, South Africa, England, the sorts of forwards they have and how successful they’ve been. We think he fits that profile – he’s big, he’s athletic and he’s an intelligent rugby player.”

Former Cardiff Blues back-rower WillGriff John has forged a new reputation as an international class tighthead at Sale Sharks. With Tomas Francis out injured, the 27-year-old will get a chance to compete with Dillon Lewis and Leon Brown for the no.3 jersey.

“He’s had a journey from being a young loose forward converted to the front row,” added Pivac. “He’s a big man, a powerful man and he’s taken a number of years to learn his craft and, having turned 27 in December, he’s just coming into his prime.

“With the work Jonathan Humphreys will do with him, hopefully we’re going to see a very good scrummaging big man who can play the game.”

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Pivac gives low-down on Wales’ newcomers
Pivac gives low-down on Wales’ newcomers
Pivac gives low-down on Wales’ newcomers
Pivac gives low-down on Wales’ newcomers
Pivac gives low-down on Wales’ newcomers
Pivac gives low-down on Wales’ newcomers
Pivac gives low-down on Wales’ newcomers
Pivac gives low-down on Wales’ newcomers
Pivac gives low-down on Wales’ newcomers
Pivac gives low-down on Wales’ newcomers
Pivac gives low-down on Wales’ newcomers
Pivac gives low-down on Wales’ newcomers
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