It was great being back involved in rugby last weekend, even if it was a bit surreal. The noise of the players and referee at Parc y Scarlets was a bit of a shock to me, but nowhere near as much as the piped sound at the Liberty Stadium the next day. That was really strange!
What wasn’t strange was the way the two teams on both days ripped into each other. We weren’t sure what shape, physically or mentally, the players in Wales were going to return in after their lockdown, but it was as though they had never been away.
I think they deserve a huge amount of credit for the professional way in which they have gone about their return to playing. It can’t have been easy for them, especially against a background of
pay-cuts, but they simply rolled up their sleeves and got stuck in. I loved being a part of it all as one of the commentators at both games.
Wayne Pivac and his coaching team were also out in force and they will have been encouraged by what they saw. Two tries each for Steff Evans and Ashton Hewitt proved there is plenty of talent to choose from on the wing.
Ashton is a great finisher who just needs to deliver on his talent week in, week out to finally make the break through at international level. As for Steff, he is just a joy to watch.
Those feet of his can dance around anyone and he not only scored two tries, but made another and put in some big hits in defence. If anyone had any question marks about his defensive capabilities then he answered them against the Blues. When I saw him warming up with his new hair cut it reminded me of some of the silly hairstyles I had when I played.
If you do something like that you have to be sure you can back it up with your actions on the pitch. He certainly did that.
What I like about Steff is that he has taken on board some of the criticisms of him in the past and come back stronger. Josh Adams, George North, Liam Williams, Johnny McNicholl and Owen Lane probably lead the way in Pivac’s pecking order on the wing, but he is going to be snapping at their ankles if he carries on like he played last weekend – along with the fleet-footed Louis Rees-Zammit.
It reminded me of the season Steff helped to guide the Scarlets into the then PRO12 final with his wonderful breaks and tries. He popped up all over the pitch and was always looking for work. The Scarlets need to get the ball in his hands as often as possible to make the most of his ability to break the defensive line.
I also enjoyed watching the Ospreys’ pocket rocket Kieron Williams in their draw against the Dragons. He quite rightly picked up the man of the match award and he was just a bundle of explosive energy from start to finish inside Owen Watkin at centre.
Everyone has been comparing him to Scott Gibbs because of his stature. He just needs to get games under his belt after having the last few years since leaving the Wales U20 set-up ruined by injury.
We could do with a few more centre options and another likely lad in the making is Ben Thomas.
I love the way he plays as a second five-eighth and he is only going to get better the more he plays at first-team level with the Blues.
More than anything, what the first weekend back proved to me is that Welsh rugby has a lot of highly promising young talent. They are going to get their chance to shine this season giving the hectic nature of the proposed fixture schedule.
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