Callum Sheedy has played himself into serious contention for a Wales place – almost six years after opting out of their U20 squad.
His supervision of Bristol’s seven-try rout of the Dragons will prompt head coach Wayne Pivac to revise his fly-half pecking order for the six autumn Tests scheduled to start against France in Paris in five weeks’ time.
Sheedy’s influential role at the top end of the Premiership coincides with a glaring hole in the No.10 rankings caused by Gareth Anscombe’s prolonged absence following knee surgery almost 15 months ago. He will not be ready for Test rugby until the Six Nations, at the earliest.
Rhys Patchell, another victim of long-term injury, hasn’t played since starting against the All Blacks in the third-place World Cup decider last November. Sheedy’s case is further strengthened by the fact that Rhys Priestland, outstanding for Bath, is ineligible under the controversial 60-cap rule.
Of the three international coaches in masked attendance at Ashton Gate on Friday night – Pivac, Warren Gatland and Eddie Jones – only one has picked Sheedy. Jones did so, ironically for an England XV against the Barbarians at the end of last season.
Gatland capped another fly-half instead during the run-up to the World Cup, Jarrod Evans of the Blues.
The non-Test status of Sheedy’s Twickenham baptism allowed the Welsh graduate from the famous Cardiff junior club St Peter’s to play without committing himself to the Red Rose cause. Sheedy, eligible for Ireland through ancestry as well as Wales by birth and England by residence, did the same in a Welsh context by withdrawing from the Junior Six Nations in 2015.
Almost six years after taking such evasive action to avoid being captured Wales at 18, Sheedy will soon have a bigger decision to make.
“I think Wayne, Eddie and Warren were all impressed by the team and the players,” Bristol director of rugby Pat Lam told The Rugby Paper.
“They are the ones who make decisions about international selection.
“The big thing about Cal is that he runs our game really well. His biggest attributes are his control and composure, his running game and his ability to put others into space.
“Cal could take the team talk because he understands the kind of game I want to play. It’s been a long journey for him. He was third or fourth choice when I arrived at the club and that’s testament to how hard he’s worked.”
At 24 with more goals, 99, than any other kicker in the English game, Sheedy has proved himself ‘the complete package’ according to the most inventive Welsh back of a bygone era, Mark Ring. “Callum has shown that he really gets the modern game,” says Ring. “Pat Lam has given him carte blanche to play it as he sees it.
“He has the complete package for the modern game. He is also a shining example of the fact that you don’t have to play flat all the time. Wales should pick him because he’s ready.
“If it turns out that he does play for England, or Ireland, then some tough questions would have to be asked in Wales as to how such a thing could happen. Too much Welsh talent has been streaming across the Bridge and that’s a problem which needs to be tackled as a matter of urgency.”