The six contenders for Welsh Rugby Player of the Year
As the domestic season heads towards its final strikes, it’s time to ask who have been the best Welsh players for region or club and country throughout the campaign.
If we were only considering the last three rounds of the Six Nations, then Taulupe Faletau would be on this list, as he was wonderful in the games against England and France, in particular.
But we are not.
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Car Faletau hasn’t featured for Wales in any other game in an injury-plagued season which has also seen the No.8 miss huge chunks of action for his club.
We are also looking beyond overseas imports, so unfortunately there is no room for Sam Lousi and Sione Kalamafoni, who have been front and center for the Scarlets.
No, those who qualified have largely avoided serious injury and have consistently excelled for either club or country or both over the course of the year.
Here is the shortlist we have compiled.
Come back on Halloween morning amid a torrent of problems for Wayne Pivac, among them the question of what to do after Wales were split 54-16 by New Zealand the day before. Ross Moriarty was injured in the match, as was Alun Wyn Jones. If it wasn’t quite the end of the world for Pivac, he must have felt something close to it.
Perhaps the biggest concern was how he would fare without Jones, the Wales leader and man of so many caps, with news quickly confirming the great talisman would be out for months.
But Rowlands helped cushion the blow with a string of solid performances.
His effort against France in particular was telling, but he was also good against England and in the fall he proved one of Wales’ best performers against South Africa. .
When he was left out of the starting line-up for the final Six Nations game, the call-up was criticized, even though it was Jones – he of many Wales caps and wonderful back catalog with his country – who was the man entering from the side.
It underlined how well Rowlands had played in Jones’ absence.
At club level, he was part of a struggling Dragons side, but his seren-y-gem effort against the Scarlets at Llanelli a week ago last Saturday reminded everyone – if anyone needed a reminder – its quality.
Welsh Autumn Tests player? Check. Included in a World XV of Pre-Christmas Tests by a screenwriter? Check. Probably responsible for the best individual performance of the season in regional rugby? You know the rest.
For the avoidance of doubt, the latter is another tick, with Basham’s effort for the Dragons against Connacht in Galway in October off the scale in terms of excellence. Former Ireland striker Mike McCarthy summed it up, calling the all-action openside “an absolute beast”.
Basham was also Wales’ best player in the opening Six Nations game against Ireland.
It proved more difficult later on, with the youngster dropped by Wales amid returning players for the final two rounds of the Championship. Re-entering domestic rugby after an international block isn’t easy either.
Lots of peaks with the odd dip then.
But, overall, the versatile and tough young Dragon had a memorable campaign.
How good was Jac Morgan for the Ospreys against Cardiff last weekend? Go to the top of the class anyone who answers “very well and then a little more”.
He was up against Josh Navidi, one of the best back rowers in the business, but Morgan played the card, going 60 yards on eight carries, making turnovers and not missing any of his 10 tackle attempts.
Rhys Webb won the Man of the Match award. Let’s just say it must have been a ferociously close call.
Few would have been surprised at the quality of Morgan’s latest offer as we head towards the end of a strong personal campaign for the 22-year-old which saw him break into the Wales squad and perform well elsewhere.
Indeed, that ability to save one big screen after another has been the defining characteristic of Morgan’s effort, with the youngster rarely dropping his standards. For the region and the country, he was exceptional.
As with Will Rowlands, we have to go back in time after the Wales v New Zealand match on October 30.
Perhaps the fully paid members of Ryan Elias’ fan club were considering bailing out after a rough afternoon for the hooker with his pitch.
Elias could easily have lost all confidence – many would have.
But the Scarlet continued to perform well for the remainder of the fall series and, apart from another difficult day in the line-ups against Dublin, they had a remarkable Six Nations, front and center with their defense and also offering themselves as a carrier. Against France, in Wales’ best performance of the Championship, he didn’t stop fighting and didn’t once miss the set piece, while his darts were once again at one hundred for cent in a man of the match performance against Scotland.
Fast-developing Dewi Lake also deserves a nod for its progress this season.
But for character alone, Elias makes the cut here.
Maligned by some, admired by many, he achieved a hundred caps for Wales during the campaign and produced some of his best rugby, his effort against France being particularly notable for the majesty of his kicks.
Sadly, for him and Wales, the game that marked his century ended in defeat to Italy and Biggar was among those criticized after a team display that lacked creativity against opponents who had never won in 36 Six Nations matches.
But don’t expect Wayne Pivac to give up his captain.
Instead, the search will continue for complementary midfield players.
The coach understands the importance of good game management, a fierce will to win and the galvanizing influence Biggar has on those around him.
During the campaign, Northampton Saint have been one of Wales’ key players.
Like Elias, Webb makes this shortlist partly because of his mental toughness, with the scrum-half refusing to take the apparent message from Pivac that the national coach just isn’t into him.
Otherwise, how can we see a situation that has seen the Ospreys skipper avoided for a test start since 2020?
But Webb stayed motivated and maintained his high standards almost every time he took the field in 2021-22.
He is the only man in Welsh rugby this season to win three official man of the match awards and he has shown leadership and maturity while leading the way for an Ospreys side that blew hot and cold. cold.
No other Welsh No.9 has performed so consistently.