New faces in the Wales squad

Dragons lock Ben Carter heads out for Wales' Captain's Run.

New faces in the Wales squad

The summer of 2021 will see the next generation of young Welsh talent given a chance to impress head coach Wayne Pivac.

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Wales – the 2021 Guinness Six Nations winners – have 10 of their best players on the British & Irish Lions tour of South Africa.

Tour captain Alun Wyn Jones and flanker Justin Tipuric might have been ruled out of taking on the Springboks due to cruel shoulder injury blows, but they have been replaced in Warren Gatland’s Lions party by fellow Welshmen Adam Beard and Josh Navidi.

A late reshuffle for the Lions meant a change for Wales too with Seb Davies, Rhys Davies, Samson Lee and Lloyd Williams all added to Pivac’s squad on Monday.

Ospreys youngster Rhys Davies is another uncapped player joining Taine Basham, Ben Carter, Gareth Thomas, Tom Rogers and Ben Thomas who were part of the original squad.

It means that with the long-term goal of the 2023 Rugby World Cup in mind, Pivac has a chance in the weeks to come to take a look into the future.

New faces in the Wales squad

Ospreys prop Gareth Thomas.

Today’s Test with Canada and back-to-back meetings with Argentina all at Cardiff’s Principality Stadium represent a priceless opportunity for Wales’ younger players to make an impression.

Dragons back-row Basham has previously trained with the senior Wales squad after coming through the Under-20 ranks. He is also a regular for the Dragons in regional rugby.

Basham hopes to go to the next level my making his Wales debut in the weeks to come.

“Training has gone really well so far,” he said. “I’ve been up here a couple of times in the past with the Under-20’s so it’s good to come up and see things again here.

“I’d been in training camps before. I thoroughly enjoyed those camps and felt like I improved. They helped me a lot, but this time I feel like I can put my best foot forward and put my hand up for some game time. That’s what I’m working towards at the moment.”

New faces in the Wales squad

Dragons back rower Taine Basham.

Basham continued: “All four regions in Wales have very strong back-rows and it’s very competitive. “We’ve got a very strong back-row at the Dragons. I want to get my hands on the ball a lot so I can carry and get over the gain line for the team and put my best foot forward for the boys.

“It’s about making an impact whether I’m starting or on the bench.
“For me it’s been about focusing on the fundamentals of the game like the set-piece, defence, and contact area. It’s been about improving those areas which may differentiate me from other people. “It’s about having a good all-round game which allows you to play well.

“Most of my time during age grade rugby was at No 8 which I think improved my game, but I think seven is the position for me moving forward.
“I’ve always enjoyed playing seven for the Dragons – it is my position of choice.”

New faces in the Wales squad

Scarlets wing Tom Rogers.

Pivac might have lost the heart of his first-choice Wales side to the Lions, but his team’s strength in depth is growing and growing quickly.

It is summed up by a player like Basham who is now recovered from an arm injury setback.

Pivac cast his eye over Wales’ fresh faces at a training camp in Colwyn Bay last week which was a priceless opportunity for the team to work together.

Preparations for facing a Canada side – led by Welsh coaches Kingsley Jones and Rob Howley – today have ramped up in Cardiff this week.

“If a cap comes, I’ll be delighted with it. Whether I’m starting or coming off the bench I need to make an impact, put my best foot forward, and put my hand up,” said Basham.

“Argentina have had some very good results. They beat the All Blacks which was amazing and it was good for world rugby. It’s hard to judge Canada because they haven’t played in a while.

“We are just focusing on ourselves and what we do. We’ll then deal with what comes at us, but I think we’ll be fine. Everything is about building towards the 2023 Rugby World Cup in France.

New faces in the Wales squad

Cardiff Blues playmaker Ben Thomas.

“Wayne mentioned he’s used over 50 odd players so far so he can have a look at them. It’s all about putting my hand up and trying my best to get on the trip in 2023.”

What is helpful for Wales’ younger players like Basham is the ability for them to learn from the senior figures in the squad.

Even without the men away with the Lions, Pivac can call on the likes of the experienced Jonathan Davies, Leigh Halfpenny, Ross Moriarty and Josh Turnbull. Centre Davies captains the team.

“The arm injury was a bit of a setback and then the boys at the Dragons, who also have a very competitive back-row, played well. It was tough,” said Basham.

“I had to find a way to get back to form and hit top gear. The Rainbow Cup was a great opportunity for me to get some game time and get back into it.

“It was a setback, but I’m feeling good now. In training with the Dragons you can’t take your foot off the gas because a coach could find a way to find a fault in your training or performances.

“At the Dragons we’ve got plenty of back-rowers. Once we are all fit it’s very competitive.

“I know Ross and Aaron Wainwright from the Dragons. I’ve learned a lot from being around them every day in training and they are good blokes off the pitch as well.

“It’s the same with Josh – he’s a really good bloke as well. Simon Cross, the Dragons defence coach, has also really helped me a with the breakdown and how to analyse a game.

“With Dean Ryan at the Dragons it’s all about the fundamentals of rugby, defence and attack, and collisions. He’s kept it simple for us and I think we benefited from that this season.”

Wales’ five uncapped: 

Taine Basham
Age: 21
Position: Flanker
Region: Dragons
Height: 1.83m (6’0“)
Weight: 95kg (14st 11lbs) 

Ben Carter
Age: 20
Position: Lock
Region: Dragons
Height: 1.98m (6’6“)
Weight: 117kg (18st 4lbs) 

Tom Rogers
Age: 22
Position: Wing / full-back
Region: Scarlets
Height: 1.85m (6’07”)
Weight: 87kg (13st 7lbs) 

Ben Thomas
Age: 22
Position: Fly-half / centre
Region: Cardiff Blues
Height: 1.83m (6’0″)
Weight: 91kg (14st 4lbs) 

Gareth Thomas
Age: 27
Position: Prop
Region: Ospreys
Height: 1.88m (6’17”)
Weight: 109kg (17st 2lbs)