A wealth of Welsh fly-half talent

What a year 2018 has been for Warren Gatland and Wales.

What a year 2018 has been for Warren Gatland and Wales.

Saturday’s resounding 74-24 victory over Tonga means Gatland’s men are on an eight-game hot streak and in eager mood to extend that run to nine against South Africa on Saturday.

This follows on from a second-placed finish in the 2018 Six Nations, a superlative summer tour of Argentina and a first win against Australia in ten years.

But aside from winning, Wales have developed fearsome squad depth, a fact especially true as far as the No.10 shirt is concerned – and here we take a look at the different fly-half options Gatland has developed.

We’re gonna need a Biggar boot

The most recent starter in Wales’ No.10 shirt is Northampton Saints man Dan Biggar, holder of 64 caps, possessor of iron grit and Gatland’s first-choice for most of the past six years.

Judging from his man-of-the-match performance against Tonga last weekend, Biggar is very much at the top of his game, orchestrating a commanding performance in his 60 minutes on the field.

The match represents the first time Wales have scored more than 70 points in a non-World Cup game since beating the USA 77-3 in 2005, with Biggar’s haul of 19 points his second-best points tally ever at Principality Stadium.

Biggar scored one try and set up another against Tonga and was at his steadfast best, with backs coach Rob Howley suitably impressed.

“Everyone has debated 10 in Welsh rugby for so many years and that will never change,” he said.

“It comes down to the skill-set and collective cohesion. Gareth Anscombe played particularly well against Australia and Dan was exceptional against Tonga. We were very clinical.”

Biggar is well-known for his supreme defensive work and has developed a more-than-useful knack of ripping the ball in the tackle.

At the age of 29, he’s developed a reputation as the best kick-chasing fly-half in world rugby, a superbly-accurate goal-kicker and has the perfect temperament in big games – as witnessed in his 77th-minute match-winning penalty against Australia a fortnight ago.

Red-hot Anscombe

“All three of the 10s have played well and that’s a great position for me to be in.”

Not many people would disagree with Gatland and no doubt plenty of head coaches around the world would like to have the options Wales have at No.10.

The man who has worn that shirt the most over the autumn has been Gareth Anscombe, who started in the wins over Scotland and Australia before being rotated against Tonga.

The Cardiff Blues man offers exceptional versatility, a point referenced by Howley, with full-back Leigh Halfpenny injured for the upcoming Springboks clash and Anscombe also impressing in the No.15 shirt for both club and country.

Anscombe is in supremely confident form at present, his miraculous solo effort for the Blues against Lyon in the European Rugby Champions Cup the perfect display of his scintillating running game.

The 27-year-old is a huge threat to opponents with ball-in-hand, a factor that frequently results in creating extra space for Wales’ potent back three.

The Young Gun

At 25, Rhys Patchell is four years younger than Biggar and provides his country with an excellent dynamic option for the fly-half shirt.

The Scarlets man earnt his first cap in 2013 but has seen a dramatic rise in game-time in 2018, starting four matches in the No.10 shirt and featuring in two others.

His year began with a stirring performance in the 34-7 Six Nations victory over Scotland and received its latest instalment against Tonga, with Patchell scoring a superb individual try after coming on as a replacement in the final quarter.

“It was a fantastic individual try from Rhys Patchell and there was one time he kicked the ball 50m – it was tempo and speed, and Rhys brings that,” commented Howley.

“He has matured nicely over the last 18 months of international rugby.”

The Penarth-born playmaker was also exceptional on Wales’ tour of Argentina over the summer and offers an excellent all-round game.

Whether passing, running or kicking – Patchell can do it all.