Wales preparing for life without Alun Wyn Jones
SPOTLIGHT: Wales rugby will, one day in the foreseeable future, bid farewell to the iconic figure of Alun Wyn Jones, the talismanic lock and most-capped player in the sport’s history.
Head coach Wayne Pivac, however, is nurturing two towering youngsters in Ben Carter and Christ Tshiunza he claims have all the potential to match the longevity of the 36-year-old Jones.
Tshiunza, aged just 19, has been named on the bench for Sunday’s Test match against Fiji, with Pivac marking down the Kinshasa-born second-row forward as “one for the future”.
“If you look at him and Ben Carter, look at what’s coming up, [Rugby World Cups in] 2023, 2027, 2031, those boys at 19 or 20 years of age, there’s no reason why – if they look after themselves and keep developing – that they can’t be involved in three World Cups,” Pivac said.
“You need that experience at the World Cup and when the Alun Wyn Joneses of the world move on, you’ve got to have the next wave coming through and that’s what we’re doing with these two young men.”
Tshiunza, who has four older sisters, left the Democratic Republic of Congo at the age of six, his parents settling in England before relocating to Wales in 2010.
The lock attended Whitchurch High School in Cardiff, an establishment that has produced some true Welsh sporting heroes in the shape of Wales and British and Irish Lions skipper Sam Warburton, footballer Gareth Bale and cyclist Geraint Thomas.
#SPOTLIGHT: @WelshRugbyUnion coach Wayne Pivac reveals how @WorldRugby can strengthen the game globally! https://t.co/e16LFhXjJ8
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“Sam and I are in close contact and text each other quite frequently. He’s been in the background helping me out,” said Tshiunza, who turned down a Cardiff contract to join English Premiership club Exeter while studying sports science at the city’s university.
“Even before my first Premiership game we talked about matchday nerves, coming off the bench and what to do and what not to do. He also texted me after my Wales call-up.
“He has been a great help and even before I got to Exeter he came into school and gave me advice.”
Tshiunza, standing 6ft 6in (1.98m) tall and weighing 17st 6lb (112kg), has said he thought his call-up to the Wales squad – which came on the same day that he was playing in a university match – was a prank.
But it was no joke for Pivac, the New Zealander coach obviously relishing having access to a special player.
“At the moment, it’s natural gifts that he’s got. We wanted to bring him into camp because every now and then a player like this comes along. The more time you can spend with them and further their development, the better it is for them,” said Pivac.
“We’re looking at him as a player, in the future, who can hopefully cover two positions, in the second row and at six [blindside flank].
“We’re really looking forward to seeing him out there. He’ll be full of energy, he’s very excited about the opportunity and he’s one for the future.
“At 19, he’s an athlete… he’ll be one to watch in the future, there’s no doubt about it, and we wanted to get him into the fold nice and early. It’ll be a great learning experience for him.”
While Tshiunza has not been a regular starter for Exeter, he played 60 minutes last weekend, something Pivac said “has been beneficial for his lungs” ahead of Sunday’s match at the Principality Stadium.
“He’ll just enjoy the whole week and the experience of playing in front of a big crowd,” he said.
“He’ll get some game time and that’s certainly what we’re looking to do with him.”