Rejuvenated Wales boss Wayne Pivac has explained why he decided against handing Callum Sheedy – the second-half hero off the bench the last day against England – the first Guinness Six Nations start of his career versus Italy this Saturday in Rome.
While Dan Biggar has recovered from the leg injury that saw him limp off shortly after half-time at the Principality versus the English, the meagre calibre of an opponent in Italy presented Wales with an opportunity to give players who are not usually starters for their country the chance to play from the start at Stadio Olimpico.
Two years ago, when Wales last won the Guinness Six Nations Grand Slam, then coach Warren Gatland made ten changes to his XV following the round one away win over France, handing the first championship starts to Thomas Young and Jonah Holmes and giving the captaincy to Jonathan Davies as Alun Wyn Jones was benched for the round two fixture in Rome.
This much reshuffled Wales only managed a low frills 26-15 that came minus a four-try bonus point – they scored just tries, their first coming on 53 minutes – and in contrast, Pivac is heading to Rome with all guns blazing having made just two changes to the XV that defeated England 40-24 on February 27.
Cory Hill and Gareth Davies have come in for the banged-up Adam Beard and the injured Kieran Hardy, with no promotion for Sheedy who stepped off the Wales bench to nervelessly fire over 13 points off the tee against the English and steer his team to their third successive win of 2021.
"We don’t want to undo the good work that has been done in the first three matches"
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) March 9, 2021
However, rather than hand Sheedy the No10 jersey for the Italian job, Pivac has stuck with keeping him in reserve and starting the long-serving Biggar whom he says is fit to play. “Where we are going with the games, the way we want to play, the way we want to start games when there is a lot of intensity, a lot of fresh bodies around, defences are in your face, it suits the way we want to play through that period of the game having Dan there.
“When Callum comes on, Willis (Halaholo) comes on, it gives us opportunities to probably play slightly differently and mix it up a little bit more. Certainly, they are two very good players. We are fortunate to have them both and they are different types of players. That is the way we are running it at the moment and it’s working so far.”
While Biggar didn’t feature for his club Northampton in either of the Six Nations down weeks, Sheedy appeared twice for Bristol and while some Wales fans might worry about this workload for a 25-year-old who only made his Test level debut last November, Pivac has had no concerns about his back-up out-half being kept ticking over in the Gallagher Premiership.
“We talk to the coaches each week and we exchange information on how they have trained, the volumes, that sort of thing, and each coach is slightly different in how they take that information and work with it,” continued the Wales coach. “Pat Lam is very good. Obviously, we know each other very well. Callum’s training week is tailored so that he can get through these games of rugby. He is important to Bristol and they have the right to use him.
“Going back there he knows he has got his work-ons from us and he continues to do that under the guidance of Pat and his coaching group. We’re comfortable with him going back there because it is a good environment and he is still learning his trade. But he has got such a level head on him for a young man he takes it in his stride, to be honest, and some players would struggle more than others really but he is one who takes it in his stride.”
"He is going to come to training this week but it would be a big call. We’ll just see how he goes"
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) March 9, 2021
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