Playing in his first match since retiring from international duty, Dan Biggar suffered a bizarre injury on Saturday afternoon.
Biggar played his last match for Wales in their heart-breaking loss to Argentina in the quarter-finals of the Rugby World Cup,. While his former team-mates Justin Tipuric and Leigh Halfpenny got their Cardiff farewell, Biggar was on club duty in the south of France.
The iconic 10 featured for Toulon against Perpignan in the Top 14 and was instrumental in the opening try of the game. Biggar took a quick penalty and stuck a diagonal kick into the grateful hands of France star Charles Ollivon, who dotted down.
The 112-cap Welshman lined up the conversion from the right side of the field and as he was about to strike the ball, the fly-half’s lower back went as he clutched the area with his hand and fell to the ground in pain.
With Biggar retired and Gareth Anscombe unavailable for the next Six Nations due to his commitments in Japan, Wales are in need of a generational fly-half.
Sam Costelow is the obvious candidate, but who replaces him if he gets a long-term injury? Dragons full-back Cai Evans has slotted in there for Wales a few times in his first few games, but it will take time for him to settle into that role. Tomos Williams was also tested at 10 in the Barbarians game.
Callum Sheedy, who emerged onto the Test scene under Wayne Pivac, has been name-checked by Warren Gatland ahead of the Six Nations.
Speaking in his post-match interview, Gatland explained: “I think Callum Sheedy is back playing some good rugby at Bristol. It’s good to see him selected and I’ll go watch him at some point. And then see some of those other 10s come through as well. Will Reed and I’d like to see Ben Thomas have some games at 10 too.”
Reed is a 22-year-old Dragons fly-half who has also represented Wales at under-20s level. Cardiff Rugby’s Thomas has earned two caps for Wales so far and can also operate in the midfield.
The Cardiff-born outside-half has 16 caps for Wales, and plies his trade with Bristol Bears in the Gallagher Premiership. Despite some good performances in the Welsh jersey, he’s not been included in a squad for some time.
Former Wales international Aaron Shingler came out of retirement to face Wales for the Barbarians.
The former Scarlets man won 27 caps for his country, and featured in the 2012 and 2013 Six Nations-winning campaigns.
Shingler announced his retirement from rugby earlier this year, after a 15-year career with Scarlets. The Llanelli-based region released a statement back in April, with Shingler saying: “It has been an extremely tough decision to make, an emotional few weeks for myself and family. I would have loved to keep going in the Scarlets jersey, but the body is telling me now is the right time to call it a day.
“It’s been an absolute honour to represent this great club for the last 15 years. When I started out playing for my village club Hendy I never dreamt I would have played more than 200 games for the Scarlets and also represented my country on the biggest stage.”
However, Shingler was called up to face his home country for the Barbarians after Api Ratuniyarawa was withdrawn from the squad.
The former Scarlet came on as a replacement in the match, and got his very own farewell from rugby, albeit overshadowed by the departures of Justin Tipuric, Alun Wyn Jones and Leigh Halfpenny.
Speaking to Lauren Jenkins on S4C after the Barbarians match, Gatland explained that there will be opportunities for players to audition themselves for the vacant Wales full-back spot.
With Liam Williams playing his club rugby out in Japan, he’s not able to play in next year’s Six Nations. And with Halfpenny retired, it leaves a big void in the team.
Dragons wing Cai Evans has been touted as a potential replacement, and has also been deployed in the outside-half role. In the Barbarians match, when Halfpenny was substituted Evans slotted in at 15, with scrum-half Tomos Williams at fly-half.
Gatland talked on the full-back role and the Tomos Williams fly-half experiment: “There’s an opportunity for players in regional rugby over the next few months and we’ve brought Cai in there today and then we moved him to 10.
“In the last 15 minutes we wanted to see what Tomos Williams was like at 10. We tried that during the World Cup camps. We ran him there a few times with the injuries that we had and he looked really sharp. Apart from the drop-out from the goal line, which was a bit of a brain freeze, we saw what a good rugby player he was.
“He made a couple of lovely passes and really made some good decisions. Maybe that’s an option for us going forward as a 10 potentially, but there’s a chance for Cai and a few others potentially in that full-back spot.”