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Lions call-up the latest chapter of Navidi's fantastic story says Pivac

First Team News | 30th June 2021

Josh Navidi’s call up to the British and Irish Lions squad is the latest chapter of a ‘fantastic story’, according to Wales head coach Wayne Pivac.

Navidi, had spent the previous week in north Wales preparing for the upcoming summer series against Canada and Argentina. 

However, the back row star was drafted in by Warren Gatland on Saturday evening, alongside international team-mate Adam Beard, after Ospreys’ Alun Wyn Jones and Justin Tipuric suffered injuries in the tour opener against Japan in Edinburgh.

Cardiff Blues academy graduate Navidi receives his first call up to the Lions squad, joining club team-mate Josh Adams in the set-up, with the wing dotting down on his debut at BT Murrayfield.

While Pivac was naturally disappointed for Jones and Tipuric, he is confident that Navidi and Beard can give good accounts of themselves out in South Africa as their absence opens up an opportunity for Seb Davies and Ospreys’ Rhys Davies to come into the national squad.

The Wales head coach said: “They are two fantastic stories but firstly we’re absolutely gutted for Alun Wyn Jones. He’s worked so hard to come back from the last injury, played so well in the Six Nations and earned the right to captain the Lions.

“From our whole squad, our hearts go out to Al and Justin. They’re two big guys in our side and they’ve worked so hard to get there. So that’s really disappointing.

“But it is an opportunity for others and thankfully, from our point of view, that experience is going to go to two Welshmen.

“It wasn’t so long ago that we asked Adam Beard to take some time out from international rugby and work on his game.

“The hard work that he’s put in and to see him get recognised this way – I’m thrilled for him.

“And Josh has battled back since injury at the World Cup and I’m pleased to see him go as well. We wish them well.

“But once they do get that call-up we were busy on the weekend thinking about who we bring in.

“It’s an opportunity for us to have a look at another couple of players. Seb [Davies] had been left out. I spoke to him before we named the squad and to bring him back in, he was excited and he’s showing that in training.

“Young Rhys Davies is very raw, he’s got a lot of potential and he’s a young man that is happy to jump in at six or the second row. He’s got a big future in the game.”

Pivac has handed a number of youngsters an opportunity in the summer opener against Canada on Saturday, including Cardiff’s uncapped playmaker Ben Thomas, who will start on the bench at Principality Stadium.

However, outside half Jarrod Evans missed out on a second Test start after suffering an injury, as Pivac revealed: “Our intention was to start Jarrod in this game and pair him up with Tomos, the club pairing, but he rolled his ankle in training last week.

“As a result, Ben Thomas has trained for the latter part of last week and the early part of this week as fly-half cover.

“Callum Sheedy jumps straight back in there [starting fly-half] and Callum is Callum. It’s water off a duck’s back to him.

“It’s disappointing for Jarrod because he trained really well in North Wales and he was excited about getting the opportunity.

“We’ll know more in the next 24 to 48 hours but hopefully it’s something that will settle down pretty quickly.”

The former Scarlets coach is excited for the upcoming series as it gives him a chance to hand opportunities to a number of inexperienced players on the international stage, as has been the tradition during Lions years.

“We really love these campaigns. As hard as it was in the autumn results-wise, we got so much out of it in terms of blooding 11 players,” explained Pivac.

“We’ve got seven new caps in this squad so we’re looking at 18 players coming through in about 18 months. It’s serving a purpose for further down the track.

“We have to build more depth at some stage and this is the obvious window.

“It’s great to see guys receive the phone call for the first time and hearing the excitement on the other end of the phone. They bring that into camp.

“It’s good for the older blokes too, who think back to when they were first selected. It gives everyone a bit of a lift, certainly the coaches. We review every training session and sit down at the end of each day to talk about the players.

“We’ve been really impressed with the raw talent at our disposal. Some of them have a wee way to go in the gym to get to where they need to be in order to be full time at this level.

“But it’s great information for them to take away and for us. I think everyone is enjoying it to date.

“It’s just taking the pressure off the boys in the way we approach the game in terms of the build-up and motivational side of things. 

“I think understanding what we’re trying to achieve in the camp and how we do things with selection which will obviously impact performance. 

“Only we can answer internally what we want to get out of it from a results point of view and knowledge of the players. Clearly at this stage you want to do both. 

“You want to learn as much as you can and test the guys and sometimes that’s about putting guys into learn in the coalface of a Test match. Results don’t always go the way you want them but looking between now and the World Cup, this is a really important stage for us.  

“Three wins would be fantastic but if we develop more players that can play Test match rugby and build our depth that would be great because you saw at the last World Cup you do get injuries. 

“We need to make sure we’re as close to five deep as we can be in each position and we’re building towards that. 

“If we take a step backwards results wise to take two steps forward in terms of building depth and then win the big tournaments we’re chasing then I’d be very happy.”