Welsh rugby team ready for testing time

Player welfare a concern but national team are relishing a return

Welsh national rugby team coach, Wayne Pivac, has claimed his players would relish the prospect of potentially playing up to eight Tests in consecutive weeks in the autumn, though this may have to be somewhere other than the Principality Stadium.

Although New Zealand has already begun to ease its lockdown measures, at a recent media conference Pivac said he expects the July series against the All Blacks to be postponed, probably until October.

Wales have a postponed Six Nations match against Scotland still to play, as well as four November Tests, and were also due to play Japan this summer  If these are called off there is the potential for a whole new Six Nations championship to be played.

Although player welfare would obviously be a concern, Pivac says the unexpected break has left the team feeling refreshed and relishing the prospect of a possible hectic Test schedule.

Away from home

Wales may not be able to play their rugby at the Principality Stadium for up to a year, however, as it has temporarily been transformed into the 2,000-bed Dragon’s Heart Hospital, which opened on April 20.

Pivac and Welsh Rugby Union chief executive Martyn Phillips have already spoken of the possibility of autumn home Tests being staged behind closed doors at other venues, with Cardiff City Stadium and the Liberty Stadium cited as possible alternatives.

Next year’s Six Nations matches with Ireland on February 7 and England 20 days later could also be in jeopardy, as medical staff have been told they could be required to work at the field hospital for up to 12 months.

Boost for Bill

Meanwhile, Bill Beaumont’s bid to be re-elected as World Rugby chairman has received a significant boost after the Welsh union announced its backing for the former England captain.

It is expected that Beaumont will now receive unanimous support from the Six Nations countries, which he hopes will be enough to give him the edge over close leadership rival Agustín Pichot.

It had been suggested that Pichot might get the backing of Wales, after he revealed it was the other member of the Six Nations to engage with him during his bid.

But Welsh Rugby Union chairman, Gareth Davies, has announced that the organisation is giving all three of its votes to Beaumont, despite some support from its board members for Pichot.

Controversy

Beaumont’s campaign took a hit following controversy over the nomination (now withdrawn) of Fiji’s Francis Kean to World Rugby’s executive committee, so the three votes from Wales are likely to come as very welcome news.

Votes are weighted in favour of the more established unions – each of the Six Nations gets three and Rugby Europe a further two – so as long as there is no late change of heart from Ireland or Scotland, Beaumont would need only six more for victory.

Pichot has the backing of the Sanzaar nations and the South American federation (worth 14 votes) and has been canvassing for support among the tier two nations.

The winner will be officially announced on May 12.

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