When a team has lost seven games out of nine, it’s hard to argue that one position in the playing set-up is particularly problematic.
Potentially, a dozen or so might need some attention.
And so to Wales as they conclude a bumpy year of internationals on Saturday with a home game against Italy.
To say it’s been an annus horribilis for head coach Wayne Pivac is to use no exaggeration at all. His side have beaten only the Azzurri and Georgia so far in 2020. England, France and Ireland havedefeated Pivac’s men twice, with Scotland winning a tussle against their fellow Celts in Llanelli.
If it all works out come the 2023 World Cup, the struggles of the past 12 months will be forgotten. But there appears much to do to reach that stage.
Which positions, in particular, have been causing Pivac most grief?
Well, he has used four different players at No. 14 and also at inside centre and on the blindside flank.
But it’s at scrum-half where the New Zealander has been in full tombola mode.
Five players have started there for Wales since February. Pivac has picked Tomos Williams and Gareth Davies three times apiece and also handed the shirt to Rhys Webb, Kieran Hardy and Lloyd Williams.
Anyone who watched the clever and skilful Rhodri Williams orchestrate the Dragons’ win over Benetton in northern Italy last weekend, thinking and acting a split-second quicker than anyone else on the field, might wonder what he has to do to enjoy a slice of the action, too, but that’s another story.
The jersey is back with Hardy for the game with Italy this weekend.
Is it the case that Pivac used to be indecisive but now he can't make up his mind? Or is he simply building depth in arguably the key position on the field, where the chap picked touches the ball more times than any other player?
We look at how those Wales have used at scrum-half in 2020 have fared and what the future holds looking ahead to the Six Nations and beyond.
Rewind to the start of the year and the Scarlet was named among the 10 best players in the world by an influential arm of the New Zealand media.
The Stuff website said of him and his performances at the World Cup: “Supremely fit Wales halfback lifted the whole side with his strong all-round game.
“His best asset, however, is his running game and his performance against the Wallabies in the crucial group stage game was outstanding.”
No other No. 9 was named on their list, not even Faf de Klerk, suggesting the authors believed Davies to be the best No. 9 in the world at that point.
But it’s been a challenge since.
The three games he’s started for Wales, against France, Scotland and Ireland, all ended in defeats. He hasn’t scored a try in eight internationals, having previously developed a happy knack of chipping in with important touchdowns, with defences coming to fear his ability to intercept.
Will he make it through to the next World Cup?
He’ll be 33 when it starts, so it won't be easy.
But he’s on the bench this weekend, with Pivac evidently still feeling he has something to offer.
He started the campaign as Pivac’s first choice, playing against Italy and Ireland, before Gareth Davies played against France.
Back came Williams for the England game but a defensive glitch or two blighted his performance.
He found himself outside the matchday squad completely when the team was picked to face Scotland the following weekend, only for the match to be postponed because of the coronavirus pandemic.
His talent isn’t in doubt.
Indeed, when it comes to break-making there are few scrum-halves who can touch him in world rugby.
His challenge in the Six Nations will be to polish up in other areas and eliminate errors from his game. Do that and he’ll be hard to overhaul in the battle to play at No. 9 for Wales.
The Webb who played for the Ospreys against Edinburgh on the opening weekend of the season produced a performance level off the scale of excellence.
He had been in similar mode against the Dragons in Swansea in August.
When he plays like that, it’s hard to see a better No. 9 in Wales.
But consistency has been a problem and he’s started just one Test since his return to the fold after his stint in France.
Age isn’t exactly on his side, either — he celebrates his 32nd birthday next week and will be 34 when the next World Cup unfolds.
But he’s a competitor who will not let such matters affect him, believing that if he’s on top of his game he’ll be in with a shout of selection.
It’s to his immense credit that he reclaimed the Wales No. 9 jersey after a four-year absence from the set-up which many assumed added up to a full stop on his Test ambitions.
But Williams never gave up.
He looked excellent off the bench against Ireland, injecting tempo into Wales’ performance, but against England last weekend there was no platform for him to play off.
There’s no place in the matchday squad for him on Saturday but he’s shown before he’s a player who can bounce back.
Who would have thought it?
Just over two years ago, some felt Hardy to be potentially fourth choice at the Scarlets, with Gareth Davies, Sam Hidalgo-Clyne and Jonathan Evans also on the books of the west Walians.
But Hardy never viewed the situation in those terms.
Now he finishes Wales’ autumn campaign lining up in the No. 9 jersey with a chance to put down a marker for the Six Nations.
It’s been some journey for the Coleg Sir Gar product, one that’s seen him reach the national team via some impressive form for the Scarlets which followed a two-year spell in Jersey after he initially found it hard to make a mark in Wales.
Director of rugby at Coleg Sir Gar, Euros Evans, said: “Kieran was a late developer in many ways.
“He’s a really good pro, a real hard worker who’s made the most of every ounce of his talent.
“I have never seen anyone work as hard as he works.
“He changed his body shape, added a yard of pace, learned about all aspects of the game.
“If anyone deserves to play for Wales it’s him.”
It was that desire to improve that impressed Evans the most when it came to Hardy. “He wasn’t one who, when he came to college, you’d have rushed out and put your mortgage on him playing for Wales,” he said.
“But he’s applied himself and you get what what you put in. He’s always last off the training field.
“He’ll see this as a chance.
“Wayne Pivac will have an eye on the 2023 World Cup and he’ll see Kieran as potentially being a good age for that tournament. I guess Wayne’s been seeing how people cope this autumn.
“Kieran’s biggest asset is that he understands the game.
“It gives him that extra bit of time on the pitch.
The Autumn Nations Cup is here as a busy month of international rugby arrives.
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“You stand next to some people at the side of a pitch and they’ll just be watching and not drawing too many conclusions. You stand next to Kieran and he’ll be taking it all in, looking at the patterns of play and assessing what’s going on.
“He’s a real thinker on the game.”
This weekend, Hardy goes up against Wales-born Stephen Varney, who starts for Italy for the first time, qualifying to pull on the blue jersey through his mother Valeria.
How the scrum-half duel pans out will inform Pivac about Hardy’s potential to be a significant player for Wales going forward.
It's a major opportunity for the youngster to show what he can do.