...By Judah Olanisebee for TDPel Media.
Warren Gatland keeping a close eye on Welsh rugby players ahead of the World Cup
With the World Cup Wales training squad announcement drawing closer, many Welsh players in the Scarlets and Cardiff teams will be aiming to impress Warren Gatland as they navigate their way through tricky EPCR Challenge Cup quarter-finals this weekend.
The assumption is that Ken Owens is a nailed-on World Cup selection.
Leigh Halfpenny, Johnny Williams, Sam Costelow, Gareth Davies, Kieran Hardy, Josh Macleod, Wyn Jones and Sam Wainwright are some of the players who will want to show up well for the Scarlets against Clermont on Friday evening.
In contrast, young Kemsley Mathias is keeping Wyn Jones out of the starting lineup for the game with Clermont, who started three times for Wales in the Six Nations.
Cardiff also has four or five backs with realistic chances of being in Gatland’s extended group, including Josh Adams and Tomos Williams.
Mason Grady and Max Llewellyn might also have shouts. Up front, in-form props Corey Domachowski and Keiron Assiratti are putting their hands up, both outstanding against Sale, while Rhys Carre will be keen to deliver off the bench and Teddy Williams and the dynamic Thomas Young could also interest Gatland.
Gatland will also be watching the Heineken Champions Cup this weekend, with Welsh players involved in three of the semi-finals.
Gatland and the selectors will be noting how all concerned shape up in the top-tier event.
It has long been the case that delivering in a big European game tends to make selectors sit up and take notice.
Five Welsh players Warren Gatland will be watching in the Heineken Champions Cup
Tommy Reffell, Leicester Tigers’ back-row, has five outings in the Six Nations. A good performance against Leinster in Dublin on Friday evening would elevate his standing even more.
Olly Cracknell is performing consistently and starting regularly in one of the most hard-nosed packs in England.
Although he is an outsider for a place in Wales’ World Cup training group, it’s not inconceivable that he’ll make it.
Dafydd Jenkins will want to impress for Exeter Chiefs in their home clash with the Stormers on Saturday.
The lock had a big game in defence against Montpellier last weekend, putting in 18 tackles.
Christ Tshiunza had a weird time of it in the Six Nations.
How he shapes up in Exeter’s clash with the Stormers on Saturday could be important to his prospects.
Nick Tompkins had a good performance against the Ospreys last weekend.
Another strong show for Saracens in their date with La Rochelle in France on Sunday would help the 28-year-old’s cause no end.