VIDEO: Welsh regional issues 'not ideal' for Pivac
SPOTLIGHT: Wales coach Wayne Pivac said his squad’s fitness problems, lack of playing time and poor recent results for the country’s domestic sides “is not ideal” less than two weeks before they start the defence of their Six Nations title.
Pivac will be missing more than 600 caps worth of experience during the tournament with the likes of captain Alun Wyn Jones, flank Justin Tipuric and wing George North out with injuries.
Two of Wales’ regions, Cardiff and the Scarlets have played just seven games between them since October due to COVID-19 travel issues and positive cases.
The pair, as well as the Ospreys, was knocked out of the European Champions Cup last weekend.
The other professional Welsh outfit, the Dragons, are likely to miss out on the Challenge Cup last 16 as all four continue to struggle to compete financially with sides across the continent.
“It’s not the ideal way to come into a camp in terms of the injuries we’ve got and some of the form. It’s what we’re dealing with,” Pivac told reporters at the Six Nations’ virtual launch.
“We’re doing our best to make sure the players are getting everything they need in the environment to perform to the best of their abilities,” he added.
Northampton Saints flyhalf Dan Biggar will stand in for lock Jones, the world’s most capped player, for the campaign due to a shoulder issue.
Jones returned just weeks after a similar issue to lead the British and Irish Lions in their Test series defeat to South Africa last year.
“Never say never, it’s Alun Wyn Jones. I wouldn’t enter it into the conversation if it was anyone else,” Pivac said regarding Jones being back before the end of the Six Nations.
“I honestly say ‘I would never say never’ but it will be a long shot. Al is working incredibly hard behind the scenes to get himself in the best shape possible for either the Ospreys or Wales,” he added.
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‘Tough’ Dublin trip
On Monday, the Welsh Rugby Union said Exeter Chiefs’ teenage loose forward Christ Tshiunza was unable to join the squad after a positive COVID-19 test.
Tshiunza came off the bench to make his Test debut in November’s win over Fiji.
“It’s disappointing for him as an individual but hopefully he’ll be right to train with the team again next week and show us what he can do in this particular squad,” Pivac said.
“He’s got a big, bright future in the game, there’s no doubt about that. He’s a fantastic athlete and at 19 years of age he’s only going to get bigger and serve Wales for a long time hopefully,” he added.
Wales start their campaign on February 5 with a trip to Ireland, who beat New Zealand in November and are without a win in Dublin in the competition since 2012.
“It’s a really tough start,” Biggar said.
“Obviously, with the form Ireland showed in November and we know how tough going to Dublin is. We haven’t had a huge amount of success there over the last few years
“This tournament, in particular, hinges on momentum, really. If you get off to a good start, then everything seems to flow, camps become a lot happier and training becomes a lot easier.
“If you can pick up an away win on the first weekend, then it sets you up really nicely,” he added.