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'A big man now': Bulked-up Llewellyn tipped to fill void left by North

By Chris Jones
Wales's Max Llewellyn in action during the Summer International match between Wales and England at Principality Stadium on August 5, 2023 in Cardiff, Wales. (Photo by Ian Cook - CameraSport via Getty Images)

Gloucester director of rugby George Skivington believes Max Llewellyn, who has put on 7kgs since moving to the Gallagher Premiership club, can fill the void in the Wales midfield created by the retirement of George North, who gave Warren Gatland’s back line much-needed physical power.

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The Welsh selectors will be out in force at Kingsholm on Friday night when Llewellyn lines up for Gloucester against the Ospreys in the European Challenge Cup quarter-final and having narrowly missed out on selection for last year’s Rugby World Cup in France, the 25-year-old centre has risen to the challenge thrown down by Skivington to put on more bulk.

Llewellyn’s hard work in the gym under the guidance of the Gloucester S&C team has seen the 6ft 5ins centre hit the scales at 109kgs to take him close to the playing weight of his father, Wales second row and former Captain Gareth Llewellyn (6ft 6ins and 114kgs), who was in the stands to see his son score a crucial try in the last 16 win over Castres, knocking four would-be tacklers out of the way.

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It was the kind of barnstorming run that made North such a key weapon for Wales and Skivington is convinced a bulked-up Llewellyn, who made his Test debut against England last August, can be the answer to the No13 role for Gatland.

Skivington said: “He has put 7kgs on so far and we were excited about signing Max because he is a young player with a lot of talent. We got him in and he did some good work before the break for the Six Nations and that is when he had a side mission with a conditioning programme to get him in a good spot.

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“Fair play to Max, he ripped into it and is 7kgs heavier and the good thing is that we have only just started and he has found his place in the squad and we have good competition in the centres.

“Max is really starting to thrive in the environment and he is a big man now. I spoke to Warren about him, he was close to the World Cup, and it was very tight. They will be touching base with him and with Max having some good games at 13 would promote him with George North moving on. There is a window of opportunity.”

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Skivington also confirmed that Scotland outside half Adam Hastings is set to return to the squad after an extended period out due to injury.

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Jon 1 days ago
Why Sam Cane's path to retirement is perfect for him and the All Blacks

> It would be best described as an elegant solution to what was potentially going to be a significant problem for new All Blacks coach Scott Robertson. It is a problem the mad population of New Zealand will have to cope with more and more as All Blacks are able to continue their careers in NZ post RWCs. It will not be a problem for coaches, who are always going to start a campaign with the captain for the next WC in mind. > Cane, despite his warrior spirit, his undoubted commitment to every team he played for and unforgettable heroics against Ireland in last year’s World Cup quarter-final, was never unanimously admired or respected within New Zealand while he was in the role. Neither was McCaw, he was considered far too passive a captain and then out of form until his last world cup where everyone opinions changed, just like they would have if Cane had won the WC. > It was never easy to see where Cane, or even if, he would fit into Robertson’s squad given the new coach will want to be building a new-look team with 2027 in mind. > Cane will win his selections on merit and come the end of the year, he’ll sign off, he hopes, with 100 caps and maybe even, at last, universal public appreciation for what was a special career. No, he won’t. Those returning from Japan have already earned the right to retain their jersey, it’s in their contract. Cane would have been playing against England if he was ready, and found it very hard to keep his place. Perform, and they keep it however. Very easy to see where Cane could have fit, very hard to see how he could have accomplished it choosing this year as his sabbatical instead of 2025, and that’s how it played out (though I assume we now know what when NZR said they were allowing him to move his sabbatical forward and return to NZ next year, they had actually agreed to simply select him for the All Blacks from overseas, without any chance he was going to play in NZ again). With a mammoth season of 15 All Black games they might as well get some value out of his years contract, though even with him being of equal character to Richie, I don’t think they should guarantee him his 100 caps. That’s not what the All Blacks should be about. He absolutely has to play winning football.

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