Wales may have endured a tough 2020 Championship but the talent is there to enjoy much better results this time around, according to former centre Hadleigh Parkes.
The 2019 Grand Slam winners won just once in last year’s Guinness Six Nations as well as twice overall in the calendar year.
But Parkes, who played under Wales head coach Wayne Pivac during his swashbuckling reign in charge of Scarlets, knows that his former boss’s style of play takes time to bed in and believes the team will be much better for their travails in 2020.
In addition, with the likes of Callum Sheedy, Ioan Lloyd, Shane Lewis-Hughes, Kieran Hardy, Johnny Williams and Louis Rees-Zammit all adding fresh impetus to Pivac’s outfit, Parkes is backing Wales’ young guns to make a big impact this Championship.
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“A good start against Ireland would be nice,” Parkes said. “I know results haven’t gone Wayne Pivac’s way so far, so I hope he can have a good Six Nations.
“It’s going to be a tight tournament, but there is a huge amount of talent in the Welsh squad. It took time at the Scarlets to play Wayne’s brand of footie and hopefully it will come with Wales.”
Despite all the fresh blood in Pivac’s ranks, one man who has stood the test of time is Jonathan Davies, Parkes’ former centre partner.
And if Wales are to succeed this year Parkes has pointed to the form of Davies as being of vital importance, even if the identity of his partner in midfield is still up for debate.
“What a career Jonathan Davies has had so far – he will go down in history as one of the best. I’m sure he will be looking to nail down a third Lions tour this summer,” Parkes added.
“What he has done for club and country over a long period of time has been really impressive. He is regarded as one of the best defenders in the world in the 13 channel, but he is also a big, strong boy in attack with a big fend.
“I think Wayne Pivac has got a lot of good options in trying to finding the right man to play alongside him.
“Johnny Williams looks to have done well at the Scarlets, while Nick Tompkins had a great season last year and has a huge amount of potential.
“He is trying to get back to where he was last year. Owen Watkin is another with great potential and I’ve reading a few bits about his partnership with young Keiran Williams at the Ospreys.
“Owen and I got called up into the Welsh squad together and I’d love to see him succeed. It also sounds as though Jamie Roberts is going great guns as well and he could still do a great job. He’s only a few caps away from 100, so I’m sure he would love that.”
Wales kick off their campaign against Ireland at Principality Stadium on Sunday, a repeat of the game two years ago which saw Parkes register a crucial second-minute try on the road to securing Warren Gatland’s third Grand Slam success.
This time around though Parkes, who is now set to begin plying his trade for the Panasonic Wild Knights in Japan, will be just an interested onlooker watching the game on the TV.
But, the memories of Guinness Six Nations triumphs gone by will always be there for the 33-year-old.
He said: “I’ll be watching the game on TV, hopefully, because technology has got the better of me so far here in Japan. My new teammate George Kruis is in charge of finding the game on TV – it’s a case of the blind leading the blind!
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“The Six Nations is such a great tournament and definitely too good to miss. I couldn’t get our TV working the other day and so I called up the YouTube highlights of the Grand Slam game against Ireland two years ago.
“That was a such a great occasion. Leaving the roof open, getting the start we did and getting on top of them are memories I will cherish. Five minutes into the second half, I knew we weren’t going to lose that game.
“It was a great campaign for us and I just hope the boys can go out and do the same thing. It is always an honour and privilege to pull on that red jersey and I’m sure they will get stuck in.”