Wales kick off their autumn campaign against New Zealand at the Principality Stadium on October 30, before facing South Africa, Fiji, and Australia respectively on the following weekends. Pivac has selected a squad with a combined international cap tally of 1,186 caps, with two uncapped players in the squad in the form of Scarlets tight-head prop WillGriff John, and Exeter Chiefs second-row Christ Tshiunza.
And Pivac is excited at the potential of 19-year-old Exeter Chiefs man Tshiunza. “In the selection, we’re looking at the here and now obviously but also at Rugby World Cup 2023,” said the Wales head coach.
“In Christ, we’ve got a young man who is obviously a great athlete. He’s got a good skill set on him. He obviously lacks gametime in senior rugby.
“He’s in a good place at Exeter in terms of working under Rob Baxter and what’s going on there. So really it’s a discussion I had with Christ post-U20s Six Nations.
“We’d been monitoring him. He’s one that we believe is a 6 going forward, and he can also cover second row. He brings something nobody else in the country probably has in terms of height and athleticism.
“Really, it’s getting him involved now for his development. Whether he plays rugby in this series, time will tell. Certainly we want to get him in, around the senior players and get him in the environment.”
Pivac has also selected Wasps openside Thomas Young, who returns to the test scene for the first time since facing Italy in the 2019 Six Nations. Young will leave Wasps at the end of the season and join Cardiff Rugby. “It was something that has definitely been forced upon us,” he said.
“Under the 60-cap rule, we knew we couldn’t select Thomas. We’ve had six openside flankers go down with injury and be ruled out.
“On the weekend just gone, we want to watch Josh Navidi and he went down on the Saturday night. Then we were at the Scarlets game on Sunday and another seven, Dan Davis, went down.
“It’s been a perfect storm in that position. Thomas has form under his belt, playing in a strong league. He’s played international rugby for Wales before.
“He’s 29 years of age, he’s got the maturity. When you look at the opposition, we felt it was special circumstances for this particular competition. We’ve asked for the ability to select him and I’m very happy to say common sense has prevailed on this occasion.”
Wales face the daunting task of facing the All Blacks in two weeks’ time, but Pivac is excited by the challenge, and believes it will be a good yardstick to measure where his team are at looking ahead to the 2023 Rugby World Cup in France.
“The original thoughts on this November series was that we wanted to tighten down on the players used and really drill down to 40-45 players from here on to the World Cup,” he said.
“But as we’ve seen with the injuries we have had and players who are unavailable we’re going to look at more players than we anticipated so it’s a great opportunity for those players and that’s the way we’re looking at it. The trick now is getting everyone fit and healthy at the same time, as long as that happens at the World Cup I’ll be really happy but you can’t forecast what’s going to happen to players playing this contact sport.
“We know we’ve got a wish list of players, but those players need to maintain form close to the World Cup and also be fit and available.”