Injury-hit Wales seek help from… Christ! Tshiunza may be heaven-sent after being called up for his country for the first time, with Wayne Pivac insisting he ‘brings something nobody else in the country has’
- Christ Tshiunza was born in Kinshasa, Congo before moving to Wales aged seven
- He is seen as a genetic gift who could turn into a fine flanker for club and country
- Tshiunza was handed his first Wales call-up ahead of the Autumn Nations Series
- Wayne Pivac believes the lock ‘brings something nobody else in the country has’
Christ Tshiunza could be a heaven-sent player for Wales – the huge forward called up for his country on Wednesday and then played for Exeter University hours later.
The 19-year-old, towering at 6ft 6in and 17st 7lbs, was born in the Congolese capital Kinshasa before moving to Wales aged seven.
A lock who played one behind-closed-doors game for England Under-20 last March, before later representing the Welsh junior side then making his Premiership debut for Exeter Chiefs, is viewed as a genetic gift who could turn into a formidable flanker.
Christ Tshiunza has been called up by Wales for the first time ahead of Autumn Nations Series
Picked for the first time by Wales boss Wayne Pivac in his 38-man autumn squad, Tshiunza then featured for his University in a 37-8 win against Cardiff University in Topsham in the student league.
‘He brings something nobody else in the country has in terms of height and athleticism,’ said Pivac of the teenager whose next match could be against the world champion South Africans in front of 74,000 in Cardiff on November 6.
‘He knows he’s nowhere near the finished product, but what he has got is a physique and strength levels which are things we can’t coach.
‘What he doesn’t have is miles on the clock in terms of the technical, tactical side. That’s what we want to do is get him in have a look at him around the other players, assess him.
The talented Tshiunza (right) is seen as a genetic gift who could turn into a formidable flanker
‘He is a project with the World Cup in mind. We’ll see how he goes in the camp to see if he gets capped.
‘He will work very hard and we will learn a hell of a lot. It’s one thing to be selected for the camp, but you have to turn up and be able to handle the rigours of the programme.’
Without six flankers including Justin Tipuric, Dan Lydiate, Josh Navidi and James Botham, as well as George North, Leigh Halfpenny, Jarrod Evans and, for the New Zealand game, seven English-based players Dan Biggar, Taulupe Faletau, Louis Rees-Zammit, Callum Sheedy, Nick Tompkins, Thomas Young and Tshiunza this is not the squad Pivac wanted to pick.
He has brought back Young, who was previously ineligible under the 60-cap rule but was cleared to play as he is returning to Cardiff, as well as Rhys Priestland, Gareth Anscombe and Ellis Jenkins.
Without six flankers and several other players, this is not the squad Wayne Pivac hoped to pick
The latter two have been out of Test contention since 2019 and 2018 respectively with horrific injuries, are at ’80 per cent’ still and will not play in all four matches against the All Blacks, Springboks, Fiji and Australia.
Pivac has many players out of form, after all Welsh teams bar Dragons lost in the last round of the United Rugby Championship, so is he crossing his fingers this autumn?
‘The side we would have liked to have taken into this series is the one that won the Six Nations,’ he replied. ‘We can only deal with the cards we’re dealt. Nothing changes in terms of prep, mindset, it’s just different players in the changing room.
‘We get judged by the results and always will. We understand it’s a big responsibility to represent the country.
Pivac believes Tshiunza ‘brings something nobody else has’ in terms of ‘height and athleticism’
‘We know when we win and play well what that does to the country. We saw that in the Six Nations, and it was the direct opposite from after the last autumn.’
Wales have not beaten New Zealand for 68 years, and now face them seriously depleted on October 30. Pivac defended the staging of that fixture, criticised in some quarters as purely about earning the Welsh Rugby Union millions in ticket sales with the result largely inevitable.
‘The reason for having this game, I wholeheartedly agree with, is that we need funding,’ concluded Kiwi Pivac.’I don’t think challenges in rugby get any bigger than that.
‘If we won I don’t know if I would ever coach again!’
Squad for Autumn Nations Series
Wyn Jones (Scarlets) (35 caps)
Rhodri Jones (Ospreys) (21 caps)
Rhys Carré (Cardiff Rugby) (13 caps)
Ken Owens (Scarlets) (82 caps)
Elliot Dee (Dragons) (40 caps)
Ryan Elias (Scarlets) (19 caps)
Dillon Lewis (Cardiff Rugby) (31 caps)
WillGriff John (Scarlets) (Uncapped)
Tomas Francis (Ospreys) (57 caps)
Alun Wyn Jones (Ospreys) (148 caps)
Adam Beard (Ospreys) (25 caps)
Will Rowlands (Dragons) (10 caps)
Ben Carter (Dragons) (3 caps)
Seb Davies (Cardiff Rugby) (9 caps)
Christ Tshiunza* (Exeter Chiefs) (Uncapped)
Ross Moriarty (Dragons) (48 caps)
Thomas Young* (Wasps) (3 caps)
Taine Basham (Dragons) (3 caps)
Ellis Jenkins (Cardiff Rugby) (11 caps)
Aaron Wainwright (Dragons) 31 caps)
Taulupe Faletau* (Bath Rugby) (86 caps)
Tomos Williams (Cardiff Rugby) (25 caps)
Gareth Davies (Scarlets) (62 caps)
Kieran Hardy (Scarlets) (7 caps)
Gareth Anscombe (Ospreys) (27 caps)
Rhys Priestland (Cardiff Rugby) (50 caps)
Dan Biggar* (Northampton Saints) (92 caps)
Callum Sheedy* (Bristol Bears) (12 caps)
Johnny Williams (Scarlets) (3 caps)
Jonathan Davies (Scarlets) (91 caps)
Nick Tompkins* (Saracens) (13 caps)
Uilisi Halaholo (Cardiff Rugby) (7 caps)
Ben Thomas (Cardiff Rugby) (1 cap)
Josh Adams (Cardiff Rugby) (32 caps)
Owen Lane (Cardiff Rugby) (4 caps)
Louis Rees-Zammit* (Gloucester Rugby) (9 caps)
Johnny McNicholl (Scarlets) (5 caps)
Liam Williams (Scarlets) (71 caps)
*Unavailable for selection for New Zealand
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