Thursday, 22 December 2011

Life After Shane...

With the 6 Nations upon us in the New Year I thought i'd accept the fact that there has to be life after Shane Williams. 87 caps, 58 tries and the ability to create something out of nothing, irreplaceable in many peoples views; but here are the options.

Williams - Crossing for number 58.

First of all let's assume that George North is going to occupy one wing. The Scarlet is often heavily involved in midfield strike moves and compliments the creativity of Priestland and Hook well, acting at times as another Jamie Roberts. The 6'3" powerhouse has proved himself on the international stage with 9 tries in 16 caps for Wales. Also some positive news coming from Nigel Davies (Scarlets coach) saying that North will almost certainly be fit for the start of the 6 Nations campaign.

North - Welsh rugby looking to the future.

Liam Williams from the Scarlets was in the squad for the Australian test in November, but I think this was more for experience rather than a genuine shot at the jersey. He's been solid for the Scarlets but hasn't exactly set any game alight scoring 4 tries in 12 appearances. It's important to think that his primary position would be Fullback and at the age of 20 he may be one for the future.

Liam Williams - Maybe in a few years.

Tom Prydie seems to have fallen off the face of the earth since his shock selection in 2010. Having only played for the Ospreys once this season I think we can safely remove him from the list.

Prydie - Needs game time at the Ospreys.

On to the Blues and Chris Czekaj. His international career has come to a halt since his horrific injury in Australia in 2007. However he has showed some good form for the Blues but can't seem to cross the whitewash only scoring twice in 11 appearances. The 25-year-old was openly frustrated in the media after being overlooked for the test match in November, but in my opinion he needs to score more tries, but with our next contender playing well, I doubt he'll get the chance.

Czekaj - Attempting to resurrect his international career

Alex Cuthbert was a name unfamiliar with even the most avid of Welsh rugby supporters, as it turns out he really has come from nowhere. After his name was mentioned to Wales 7's coach Paul John he never looked back and made his international debut last month. The 21-year-old has scored 3 tries in 6 games in the Rabodirect Pro12 and looks to be quite the finisher. I think he needs more games at the Blues to prove that he is a genuine talent but he is one not to be overlooked.

Cuthbert - Snuck in under the radar.

Tom James is another winger who seems to have disappeared off the international scene in recent seasons , which may be testament to the form of George North. He's scored 3 tries in 10 games which is a decent ratio; he's a pretty strong runner but he needs to up his game in order to be considered in my opinion.

James - Gone missing.

Richard Mustoe is a name that has been thrown around but he hasn't scored in 7 appearances for the Blues, there are better wingers in Wales.

Mustoe - Not a likely contender.

On to Will Harries of the Dragons. After showing some good form he made his Wales debut against the All Blacks in 2010. During this time he displayed electrifying pace and the ability to finish off the majority of chances thrown his way. But fate hasn't been kind to Harries, he ruptured ligaments in his knee back in April and only made his comeback against Exeter earlier on this month. The signing of South African winger Tonderai Chavanga at the Dragons will probably severely damage his chances of getting regular game time, so I can't see Harries featuring for wales any time soon.

Harries - On the mend.

But I think the most likely contender for Shane's old jersey is Dragons wing Aled Brew. Although he's only scored once in four appearances for the Dragons this season you can always expect a solid performance from him. He has pace to burn and is a great finisher. Dragons coach Darren Edwards sings the praises of Brew and shares the view that he is the man to replace Shane Williams.

Brew - Next in line.

So in my opinion i've run through anybody who is likely to be a straight swap for Shane however there is another option. Leigh Halfpenny has been performing well at fullback and was one of Wales' best players in RWC, however he can revert to the wing. If this has to happen Lee Byrne has been performing very well since his move to France. So I think this option is plausible. But Warren Gatland openly said that players would severely damage their chances of an international call up should they not be released by their clubs 13 days before the tournament begins. Problem is Clermont Auvergne are not obligated to release Byrne for the 6 Nations, nor do they look likely to do so.

So in my opinion our best option is to give Aled Brew an opportunity. But there is a lot of uncertainty surrounding the empty shirt, one thing that is for sure is that there is going to be a lot of pressure on the shoulders of George North in the upcoming campaign because Wales needs a new finisher, and he is surely the one we will all be turning too.

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