'Happy and good is unacceptable. What would Callum say?'
No one knows, apart from Wales boss Wayne Pivac perhaps, when Callum Sheedy might be thrust into the Autumn Nations Cup fray against England on Saturday to make just his third Test appearance in his fledgeling international career.
The 25-year-old Sheedy made his debut at the tail end of the Dublin loss to Ireland, coming on with Wales under the pump and heading for a derisory 32-9 defeat.
Last week, though, he made his first start, guiding Pivac’s strugglers to the 18-0 win over Georgia that snapped a six-match losing run. You’d imagine the rookie would be chuffed with himself but he wasn’t completely, peppering his club boss, Bristol’s Pat Lam, with a flurry of texts.
It has been ever thus. When Lam arrived at Bristol in 2017, Sheedy was way down the pecking order but his appetite for learning has turned him from a bit-part player to being the conductor of a Bears outfit that signed off 2019/20 as European Challenge Cup champions and Gallagher Premiership semi-finalists.
It was June 2019 when Sheedy fleetingly popped up in the England colours, taking part in their annual Twickenham rendezvous with the Barbarians, but it was always likely the Cardiff-born out-half would ultimately wind up in the bosom of the Wales set-up with an eye on becoming the long-term successor to Dan Biggar.
— Bristol Bears (@BristolBears) November 26, 2020
That process began in earnest this month and while he will only play bench back-up to the established No10 when Wales welcome England to Llanelli, Sheedy getting to that level has greatly enthused club boss Lam. “He is just a great example of if you have got a dream and you have got a plan, and you’re committed and hungry to work, it will come right for you,” said Lam, who will be in catch-up mode on Saturday concerning the international as the second half of Bristol’s Premiership game with Worcester will overlap with the Parc Y Scarlets start.
“Then it’s constant review and also understanding the three non-negotiables – game culture, leadership, understanding the game. Understand culture is a big part of it in the sense that you’re not happy or you don’t feel comfortable.
“Callum is all about the game and the team game, he is all about culture and he is a great team person, so he fits in, he makes relationships real easy, he makes people feel comfortable.
“And then the other third thing is the leadership and he has got leadership skills because he will never ask anyone to do anything that he doesn’t do himself. Through all of that the reason he has climbed so fast up the pecking order and the reason he is doing so well is because he has unbelievable self-awareness.
“As an example – he does it after most games anyway – but after the Wales game, he was sending me texts about how he was happy with a couple of things but there were things he thought he could be better and I was just dropping him back messages, but that is just Callum.
“It’s funny, we had a meeting Wednesday – we always catch up with the tens, myself and Conor McPhillips, the assistant coach, on the down day – and I asked a question to one of them, I said well how did you think training went yesterday and he was, it was good, I was happy.
“I looked at him and I said what would Callum say? I said ‘I’m happy and good’ is unacceptable. What would Callum say? Callum would go through the chat, the connection, the lines, the timing, he’d talk about the overall flow, and I said, so now boys give me some more detail please, what happened and what did you think of the training game?
“That is Callum. His understanding of the game that any coach is trying to do, he is very meticulous and understands okay this is what you want to do, this is my role in it. Everything on a rugby field is around connections and being able to connect and tune in and that is one of his strengths.
"One or two scintillating Jonny May moments aside, England have gone full Priti Patel and bullied those in front of them until they collapsed."
@davidflatman says the psychological battle ahead for Wales almost outweighs the stern physical examinationhttps://t.co/INxmx8yQpH
— The XV (@TheXV) November 27, 2020
“Of course he has got a lot of work-ons and his general skills, he knows that and he has put time into that. He is going to continue to develop and he is hungry to get better but his greatest asset – and you could see it when he started for Wales – there was a lot of inexperienced guys but everyone seemed to know exactly what was going on and he directed it really well.
“I thought he was very good and it just shows it doesn’t matter the level, as long as he has got clarity and gives everyone else clarity then he will be successful.”
Sheedy’s penchant for constantly asking questions reminds Lam of how he himself was as a player who enjoyed a European Cup and league-winning career in England alongside his Test exposure with Samoa.
“Callum will always want to know why and that is what I challenge all my players, you better know the why. Don’t just do something because the coach tells you to do it. That was like me as a player – I was probably a bit of a pain in the backside for coaches because I wanted to know the why.
“If we are doing this drill why does this have any relevance to what we are doing in the game, and that’s the thing that Callum will always ask the why. I never ever have an issue to answer the why because the big picture is explained, but he is very good and the beauty some times when other players ask is I go well, what do you think Callum and Callum will give them the answer. Callum can present and he normally nails it.”
'They were backing me through that whole situation in terms of what happened at Worcester.'@SPiutau on @BristolBears , Pasifika players, his brother and that Worcester incident, with @heagneyl ??? https://t.co/fodTDPBGTo
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) November 22, 2020
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