It’s one of many largest questions going through Wales head coach Wayne Pivac this summer time.
Effectively, some would see it in these phrases.
Ought to Alun Wyn Jones begin within the Check collection in opposition to South Africa?
Opinion will likely be break up. Some will level to Jones’ age — he’s 36 — and level out that issues didn’t go particularly properly the final time he performed a sport of worldwide rugby. Actually, let’s not put too tremendous a degree on it: issues went calamitously for Wales, with Italy successful in Cardiff for the primary time.
Additionally, the person Jones changed in that sport, Will Rowlands, had a tremendous championship; certainly, a lot felt him to be Wales’ greatest participant, although it’s an understatement to counsel the bar was set low. Adam Beard, the opposite lock within the combine, has change into a Pivac favorite and acted as Wales’ pack chief in the course of the Six Nations.
However there will likely be one other group who’ll stand four-square behind Jones, declaring that there have been 22 different gamers in Wales’ squad in opposition to the Azzurri and the previous captain has qualities that no coach in his proper thoughts ought to consider doing with out heading right into a Check in opposition to South Africa.
The place does Jones’ previous coach on the Ospreys, Sean Holley, stand on the problem?
“I wouldn’t be stunned if Alun Wyn performs within the first Check,” he says.
“Wales are going to want expertise in South Africa and no participant has extra expertise of worldwide rugby than Al.”
Probably, Pivac will think about coaching performances, as properly, and few practice as arduous as Jones.
The top coach will know the Ospreys man can’t go on for ever, however there have been indicators within the United Rugby Championship video games in direction of the top of the season there’s nonetheless petrol within the tank. Towards the Dragons in Swansea he made extra floor with ball in hand than some other house ahead, whereas he was within the thick of it within the following spherical in opposition to the Bulls, working arduous in defence and doing all he may to fight the physicality of a workforce who’ve since gone on to win the URC.
Pivac will likely be questioning in the back of his thoughts whether or not the 150-cap warrior from Mumbles could make it via to the subsequent World Cup however after the Italy expertise he’ll additionally know crucial sport in Check rugby is the subsequent one.
Within the again row, Wales are with out Justin Tipuric and Ross Moriarty however they nonetheless have quite a lot of battle-hardened choices together with Dan Lydiate, Josh Navidi and Taulupe Faletau.
What can be Holley’s again row? “Josh Navidi, Taulupe Faletau and Jac Morgan,” he says., unhesitatingly.
“That stated, we all know Jac shouldn’t be going.
“I believed he’d be within the squad, however a coach can take solely so many gamers. The selectors might really feel they’ve seen sufficient of Jac and he’s nonetheless there for the longer term and this a chance to take a look at one other participant.
“For me, in the event that they had been going to choose Tommy Reffell, it was in all probability a call over Taine Basham or Jac Morgan. Taine has performed properly for Wales and for the Dragons, however Jac Morgan’s a particular participant.
“My guess is that they’ll decide some established folks within the first Check, maybe Navidi and Faletau. If they’re choosing a specialist seven it should in all probability be Basham to begin with, but when I had been a Wales coach I’d need to see Reffell sooner or later.
“He’ll be capped on the market — there’d be no level choosing him in any other case. He’ll in all probability characteristic within the second or third sport, to provide him an opportunity to indicate he’s as much as Check normal.”
A United Rugby Championship last between the Stormers and the Bulls underlines the buoyancy of South African rugby proper now. Conversely, there are probably aliens on distant planets who may need heard that Welsh rugby is experiencing difficulties on and off the sphere.
And whereas Springboks coach Jacques Nienaber has talked Wales up, his phrases don’t chime with these of a big part of the native media, who’re clearly anticipating Pivac’s facet to be steamrollered.
“I’m a bit anxious myself in regards to the journey,” says Holley.
“It is coming at a troublesome time, with Wales not taking part in very properly, the areas having their very own challenges and a few essential guys lacking.
“I’m a bit anxious South Africa are sharpening the studs and licking their lips on the prospect of an under-performing Wales visiting. My guess is that they’ll need to remind us that they’re the world champions and that they’re able to be the subsequent world champions.
“Having the South African sides within the URC has given them some good publicity to our rugby up right here. They’re going to be properly–ready, so it’s going to be robust.
“That stated, it’s what it’s. The fixtures are within the e-book and the tour may show a great studying expertise.
“I don’t suppose it should go the best way of 1998 (when Wales misplaced closely). That was a large watershed second for our rugby and I’m hoping it’s not going to be the identical. I nonetheless suppose we will be problem at worldwide stage. We had been within the sport in opposition to France within the Six Nations and the identical utilized in opposition to England.
“My considering is Wales can nonetheless subject a aggressive 15. There’s George North, the nines are good, Daniel Biggar performed very properly within the Six Nations and we have now some superb gamers within the again row.
“However the physicality within the entrance 5 goes to be examined and that’s the place video games in South Africa are gained and misplaced. The Springboks will know that and attempt to exploit it. So it’s a problem for Wayne Pivac, Jon Humphreys and the gamers, however it’s the sort of check you need a 12 months out from a World Cup.”
Regardless of the potential for a troublesome journey, Pivac ought to have quite a lot of questions answered by the point Wales return house. “He’ll need to see whether or not Tommy Reffell can minimize it at Check stage,” says Holley. “Can Will Rowlands again up his Six Nations performances? Does Dewi Lake stand out within the hotbed of South Africa as this massively spectacular bodily athlete who’s emerged on the Welsh scene and we have now such excessive hopes for.
“Myself, I am wanting ahead to seeing George North play.
“He’s again after a very long time out and the query is whether or not Wayne will play him at 13.
“I like the best way Johnny Williams completed the season. He went rather well and it’ll be intriguing to see how he goes if he options.
“We all know the video games are going to check our gamers, however the collection will let Wayne Pivac know the place Wales stand.”
Pivac himself may do with a good tour.
There are nonetheless questions on the kind of sport he desires to play and time is brief, with the World Cup simply 15 months away.
He confronted requires his head after the loss to Italy, and South Africa isn’t the place to go for tea and sympathy. A troublesome tour may finish with extra criticism and scrutiny. Holley, although, feels the New Zealander is prone to keep in publish via to the World Cup.
“Off the again of the Six Nations, you in all probability wouldn’t really feel protected as a coach, however you’d wish to suppose if a change had been to be made it could have been made after the Six Nations.
“Wayne’s in all probability going to take Wales into the World Cup.
“I simply hope folks perceive the place Wales are, the place South Africa are and minimize Wales a little bit of slack this summer time.
“We’ll be on the lookout for some form of efficiency and a response after Italy within the Six Nations — and I believe we’ll see that as a result of we have now a proud bunch of gamers.
“However everybody is aware of the size of the problem.”