The crisis that Wales looked to be in a couple of weeks ago with their outside centres may have averted ahead of their Guinness Six Nations opener on Saturday at home to Wales.
While Jonathan Davies and Willis Halaholo are still set to miss the entire tournament, Wayne Pivac’s problems have eased with the call-up of Saracens’ Nick Tompkins and Owen Watkin returning to full training.
This was a major concern a couple of weeks ago with Cardiff Blues’ Josh Adams and the Ospreys’ George North both chosen to start at outside centre for their clubs, allowing Pivac to assess his options (the Adams experiment was called off at the last minute).
While those pressures may not still be as apparent, there are still some reports that North will start at outside centre at the Principality Stadium on Saturday.
This has not been too popular, as much of the Welsh public feel the 27-year-old is solely a winger. He has been trialled in a No13 shirt before, but it was not wholly successful in what is possibly the hardest position on the field to defend.
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The team captains were out in force at the Guinness 2020 Six Nations launch
It certainly was a very real prospect that he would have to move position for the Six Nations, but Tompkins has now emerged as a far more popular option to get the nod when Pivac reveals his XV on Thursday.
The 24-year-old is a natural centre, albeit more accustomed to inside centre, and has been in great form over the past 18 months for Saracens.
Suspect defence is putting it mildly. Saw Pivac interview a few weeks ago, he spoke very highly of Tomkins they’ll he’ll have a big future with wales
— Stuart Owens (@Stewie_Pies) January 29, 2020
Absolutely, I don’t think he has been at the top of his game for a while now, so playing in a new position doesn’t make any sense to me
— Sean (@Seanponty) January 29, 2020
I can’t help thinking that other sides’ attack coaches would love us to play him at outside centre.
— ??? ???????? (@TimAlunWilliams) January 29, 2020
100% agree. Start Tompkins.
He’s been on fire for Saracens and if you don’t give him a shout in this game when do you start him?
— Owain Glynd?r (@IgtIan) January 29, 2020
Of course, a match against Italy at home is the perfect game to trial North again at outside centre, but it is also the right game to give a different player their debut.
With a trip to Ireland the following week, Pivac will want to know who his best option is and Tompkins seems to be the fans’ pick.
Call me crazy but I agree that picking the best Welsh outside centre available is a good idea.
— Rhod Vaughan (@rhodders9) January 29, 2020
Due to the wealth of options on the wing, moving North infield is a good way to keep him on the pitch as he is probably behind Adams and Johnny McNicholl in the coach’s estimation.
But the truth is, many people do not think that he should be shoehorned into the team for the sake of it when the Saracens centre seems to be a better option.
Personally think playing North at centre will be ridiculous when you have Tompkins & Williams in the squad who are experienced centres
— Sean (@Seanponty) January 28, 2020
Surely it’s obvious that the transition between 12 and 13 is easier than wing to Centre, regardless of how many times Tompkins has played 13 this season. Tompkins has to be the pick. Could argue North shouldn’t be in starting XV on current form.
— Nick Rumbold (@nickrumbold1) January 29, 2020
It must be remembered that this is Pivac’s first Test in charge of Wales, so he will still be finding out which players he prefers. But at this moment in time, North is better staying on the wing.
WATCH: The Rugby Pod sets the scene ahead of the 2020 Guinness Six Nations and reflects on yet more Saracens fallout
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