If you’re looking for the perfect inside centre in international rugby then look no further than Wales’ Hadleigh Parkes – the No.12 who can do everything.
The 6’2’’ stalwart can run, tackle, pass and kick with the best of them and has the all-round game to match any centre in world rugby, which he’s displayed to perfection in the 2019 Guinness Six Nations.
The AWS statistics say the 31-year-old has made 39 tackles, made 33 carries and beaten eight defenders – impressive numbers but it’s Parkes’ ability to deliver at the crucial moments that tells, as well as an extremely low error count.
For those crucial moments you can look back to Wales’ storming second-half comeback in Paris as Parkes poked the ball through to the tryline – Yoann Huget spilling and George North touching down.
On to that fearsome clash with England in Cardiff and Parkes was again at the centre of things, the top metre-maker in the game with 78m, and 12 vice-like tackles key to the defensive effort – you can quite easily imagine defence coach Shaun Edwards is a fan of his No.12.
Some of those metres made came in an important bust as part of the incredible 35-phase Cory Hill try that broke the English resistance, before he popped up to clear the ruck as North was felled in the corner.
The Scarlets man only seemed to get better as the Championship went on, earning the Guinness Player of the Match Award in the 18-11 victory over Scotland.
This was a Championship sometimes built on defence and Parkes again chipped in with 17 tackles in a titanic effort to hold the Scots at bay, second only to Josh Navidi and Justin Tipuric.
Parkes’ fingerprints were all over the BT Murrayfield battle, from his rampaging break into the 22 ahead of Jonathan Davies’ try to his diffusing of Ali Price’s chip to prevent Sam Johnson collecting.
The final challenge was Ireland at Principality Stadium and in a febrile atmosphere, the opening exchanges were always going to be crucial.
Wales could not have hoped for a better start as pressure from North from kick-off earned a lineout in the Irish 22.
Wales then set up a pre-planned move that ended with Gareth Anscombe chipping over the top for Parkes to dot down after just 70 seconds – key moment? No mistake once again from the centre.
That was the catalyst Wales needed but Parkes’ early contribution was not done there. Ireland looked set to hit back immediately when Jacob Stockdale got into the clear down the left but somehow Parkes stormed back at pace with a perfect covering tackle, forcing the winger to knock on.
Wales never looked back and clinched the Grand Slam in spectacular fashion with a 25-7 success.