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Welsh-qualified talent Gatland must now look to the explosive leftfield option

Welsh-qualified talent Gatland must now look to the explosive leftfield option

There have been calls for the Welsh Rugby Union to put more resources into its Exiles programme, especially in the wake of Immanuel Feyi-Waboso’s decision to represent England.

It is no secret that Wales have a small player pool and would have to scour the world for Wales qualified players. The recent story focused on supporting youth and developing players with the long-term goal of the 2027 Rugby World Cup.

With this in mind, it would be a surprise if Warren Gatland hasn’t looked beyond the borders of Wales for players. WalesOnline take a look at five Welsh-qualified players worth keeping a close eye on.

Bradman Best

This is a left-field choice and to call it a long shot would be an understatement, but other first-tier countries have turned to rugby league before. Best won’t be a name familiar to Welsh rugby fans, but he is a force to be reckoned with in Australia’s NRL, considered by many experts to be the toughest competition in both rugby codes, while also featuring New South Wales in the state has represented. of the Origin series.

The 22-year-old plies his trade for the Newcastle Knights and is a phenomenally explosive center who is extremely physical and has an excellent release game. Despite being from Australia, Best was asked to play rugby league for Wales and qualify through heritage, but that never materialized.

There have been many big name players from the 13-man code who have made the move to the union with varying degrees of success. Former All Blacks star Sonny Bill Williams and England Rugby World Cup winner Jason Robinson are two of the best-known success stories, while the likes of Sam Burgess and Benji Marshall failed to make much of a dent.

It would likely take a huge bid to pry Best away from the NRL, but given Wales’ shallow playing pool they could do worse than make an approach.

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Cameron Hanekom

The 21-year-old backrower has been in great form for the Bulls this season and will only improve in the coming seasons if he remains relatively injury free. Hanekom, born and raised in South Africa, is eligible for Wales thanks to his grandmother.

Unfortunately for Wales, Hanekom was recently named in the Springboks alignment camp and it appears his main goal is to represent the country of his birth. It’s a real shame for Wales because Hanekom offers something different and is a destructive number 8, something that is in short supply in his grandmother’s country.

But South Africa is ashamed of his wealth in the back row, and even if he is capped in the near future he could potentially switch his allegiance to Wales at a later stage.

Josh Hathaway

It would be a surprise if Gloucester speedster Hathaway did not feature in Wales’ summer tour of Australia given his form in the English Premiership. The 20-year-old hails from Aberystwyth and represented Wales U20s before switching his allegiance to England U20s.

Hathaway, who can play full-back and wing-back, has scored seven tries in 16 games for Gloucester this season and has plenty of pace. He is also strong under the high ball and although his defense remains a work in progress, he is a player with a real X-factor who can beat defenders.

Wales are scarred by Feyi-Waboso’s decision to represent England in his native country and do not want Hathaway to go down the same path.

Regan Grace

Grace was a revelation for St Helens in the 13-man code, winning three Super League titles and a Challenge Cup with the Saints.

The Port Talbot man was one of the deadliest finishers in rugby league, with his devastating pace and outrageous footwork not unlike Wales union great Shane Williams in pomp and circumstance. But after signing for the French giants, Racing 92 Grace ruptured his Achilles tendon and was unable to make a single appearance for the Parisians.

Bath have made a mark on the wing, and while there are question marks over his suitability, there is no doubting his natural talent. This summer’s tour of Australia is likely to come too soon for Grace, who also qualifies for England, but if he can get some games under his belt it would be a surprise if Wales don’t at least look at him.

Blair Murray

The 22-year-old Canterbury speedster, who can play in either the back three or outside half, has been on the Welsh Rugby Union’s exile program for some time. Murray, a New Zealand Schools international, has electric footwork and pace, but he is on the small side at 6ft 3in and 75kg.

He is eligible for Wales thanks to his mother and while it is unclear how high his ceiling is, he would be worth a point for one of the Welsh regions provided the price is right.