Warren Gatland’s Wales squad selections have been debated and questioned throughout this year’s tournament, but none more so than the final-round game against France this Weekend.
Our Welsh rugby correspondent Gavin Barrett reviews this weekend’s squad selection in a two-article piece starting with the forwards and gives his opinion on if they were the right decisions.
1) Rob Evans
There is no question on who Wales’ best loosehead is. Rob Evans has had a very good six nations following on from his excellent performances in the autumn and for the Scarlets. Evans has really made the number one jersey his own and doesn’t look like losing it anytime soon. Good Decision.
2) Ken Owens
The Sherriff as he’s known again has been excellent over the last 18 months for club and country and is a real go to man within the Welsh squad. Owens who is part of the Welsh leadership team always gives 100% and leads from the front in terms of leadership and passion. Similar to Rob Evans made that two jersey his, the up and coming Elliott Dee still has a way to go to take that away from Owens. Good Decision.
3) Thomas Francis
The Exeter Chiefs tight head divides opinion with fans, with some happy to see him in the Welsh squad because of his scrummaging and others disappointed because of his lack of mobility around the park. I tend to agree with the latter, other than in the scrum Francis doesn’t offer much else and seems to give away needless penalties every time he’s on the pitch. Samson Lee should have kept his place and Francis could count himself lucky that he’s in the Welsh squad. Wrong Decision.
4) Cory Hill
Cory Hill has proved a lot of doubters wrong in this Six Nations campaign, following the fallout of his selection for the British and Irish Lions as a late call up. The Dragons lock has shown why Warren Gatland has so much faith in him putting together a run of impressive performances and the only Welsh forward to start every game this campaign. Starting to receive the plaudits he deserves, but will have a fight to keep his place when Jake Ball returns from injury. Good Decision.
5) Alun Wyn Jones (C)
Captain of the side Alun Wyn Jones never seems to disappoint, mr consistency for both region and country. The Ospreys man always leads from the front and is the most capped Welsh player ever and shows no sign of slowing down yet, another one of Gatland’s go to men and is always first name on the team sheet. Good Decision.
6) Justin Tipuric
Here are where the tough choices came, in the back row. Starting with blindside flanker, Justin Tipuric has had to be patient for a start in recent months with Josh Navidi being so impressive at open side and Aaron Shingler at blindside. His start finally came against Italy and had a try scoring performance, which has earned him another start against France. The decision is very harsh on Aaron Shingler with the Scarlets flanker arguably been Wales player of the tournament. Shingler deserved to start. Wrong Decision.
7) Josh Navidi
The Cardiff Blues back rower has been outstanding for Wales since coming into the team in the Autumn and he is determined to keep that seven jersey despite plenty of competition. James Davies impressed last week but in vintage Gatland fashion he goes back to what he knows, instead of adapting and progressing. Although Navidi doesn’t deserve to lose his place, I feel James Davies should be the one to lead Wales forward in that department. Cant argue with the decision because of Navidi’s form. Good Decision.
8) Taulupe Faletau
No question or debate over this one, Faletau is world class. Faletau since coming back from injury has looked sharp and everyone can expect another big performance from the Bath Number eight against France. Good Decision.
Part two of the article will be released soon, where our Welsh rugby correspondent Gavin Barrett will be back to discuss the backs selection.