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Williams column: Get Callum Sheedy capped while you can, Wales

Callum Sheedy

MAX BOYCE used to sing about the Wales outside-half factory, but as Wayne Pivac begins his new era as head coach he is struggling for options at No.10.

Rugby fans have barely had time to draw breath after the World Cup, but professional rugby doesn’t stop and we’re now only two weeks away from Wales’ game with the Barbarians in Cardiff.

The Principality Stadium clash will be Pivac’s first as head coach after succeeding Warren Gatland, but it’s not an ideal situation coming so soon after the tournament in Japan.

Wayne is struggling for playmakers with Gareth Anscombe out for the season, Rhys Patchell now on the sidelines too, and Dan Biggar unavailable as the Barbarians game is outside the Test window.

It means Jarrod Evans and Sam Davies are likely to be given a chance to impress when Pivac names his first squad this week. Everyone knows I like what Jarrod and Sam bring to the party, but there is another name I’d like to throw into the fly-half mix moving forwards – Bristol’s Callum Sheedy.

Because he plays his club rugby in England – like Dan – Sheedy can’t play against the Barbarians, but I think he has to be looked at for the Six Nations. He has had an impressive start to the season.

You would imagine that barring injury Dan will be first-choice fly-half for Wales in 2020 and that would be quite right as I thought he had an excellent World Cup.

But with Gareth a long-term absentee and Rhys a Six Nations doubt, I’d like to see Sheedy get a first international call-up next year. He deserves one in my opinion.

For starters, he is being picked at the Bears – who top the Gallagher Premiership after four rounds – ahead of Ian Madigan which tells you everything about how highly Pat Lam rates him.

I know everyone has been raving about Ioan Lloyd at Bristol, another talented young Welshman at Ashton Gate. I’m sure his time will come, but 2020 could be the year for Sheedy.

I’ve watched him a few times this season and what I like about his game is his control.

He never really looks flustered which is what you want in a No. 10. As a young player that’s not easy, especially in the Premiership where defences are so fast in terms of line speed.

I watched Bristol’s comeback win at Exeter. Sheedy might not have got the headlines, but he was excellent in that game, playing the full 80 minutes, and helping his team turn the tables.

Sandy Park is one of the toughest places to go in English and European rugby.

I was hugely impressed by Bristol’s doggedness and refusal to panic when they went into half time 17-0 down and much of that came from Sheedy.

As a young fly-half it would have been easy for him to try the extravagant pass or gamble with his team needing a miracle to record a victory. He didn’t do that. He stuck to the basics and got his reward by kicking well out of hand and from the tee and distributing nicely.

In front of him his pack did a good job, but Sheedy didn’t look out of place against an Exeter back-line full of internationals in Stuart Hogg, Henry Slade, Nic White and Jack Nowell.

If he can do that now, I’m excited about what he can achieve in the future at the next level up.

Sheedy is certainly an interesting player. Born in Cardiff, he is also eligible for both England and Ireland and has actually worn the white shirt at Twickenham against the Barbarians in a non-capped game.

I think Wales would do well to get him into their international set-up as soon as possible because if he continues his upward curve, the other countries he could represent will surely come sniffing.

The Six Nations would be the perfect opportunity to give him a first taste of an international environment.

Let’s be clear here, no-one – least of all me – is expecting Sheedy to come in and start the tournament ahead of someone like Dan. But with Gareth and Rhys injured, the opportunity is right for Sheedy to be given his chance at the turn of the year.

As a small nation Wales have to maximise what they can from their playing pool and at 24, Sheedy has all the ability to become a Test player. All he needs first is an opportunity.

SHANE WILLIAMS

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