The players that made the difference in Wales’ Six Nations triumph
Wales have been crowned 2021 Guinness Six Nations champions as coach Wayne Pivac enjoyed success after taking over from Warren Gatland.
Here, the PA news agency looks at four players who were pivotal contributors in Pivac’s team throughout the campaign.
Gloucester wing Rees-Zammit has made a startling impact on the international stage. The 20-year-old’s Wales debut – against France in a friendly – came only five months ago, but he has scored tries for fun, including a brilliant one-handed finish against Ireland, before he posted a memorable double as Wales’ Six Nations momentum increased by toppling Scotland at Murrayfield. He terrifies opposition defences with his pace and could be sprinting towards a British and Irish Lions place against South Africa this summer.
Ospreys star North became the youngest player in rugby union history to reach 100 caps for their country when he lined up against England last month, and the 28-year-old has revelled in a new role after being switched from wing to outside centre by Pivac this season. Only Shane Williams has scored more tries for Wales than North, who continues to be an integral part of his country’s armoury into his second decade as a world-class performer. A third Lions tour appears on the horizon.
Loosehead props rarely command headlines but, in Jones, Wales have a player who they dare not be without. At the age of 29 with 34 caps to his name, Jones is enjoying a career high and has been a scrummaging cornerstone for Wales. The set-piece was transformed from Wales’ Autumn Nations Cup struggles, when Pivac often experimented in selection, and Jones has been a rock, featuring in 13 of Pivac’s 15 Tests at the helm.
Number eight Faletau has been a Test player for 10 years, and he continues to drive standards. In Wales’ campaign this season, he made 66 tackles and had 70 carries, which underlines the huge impact he offers alongside back-row colleagues Josh Navidi and Justin Tipuric. Bath forward Faletau is world-class, possessing an ability to combine power and prodigious defensive work with the footballing skills of a back.