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Wales Online
Wales Online
Ben James

The Hadleigh Parkes interview: My future and why I back Wayne Pivac to turn things around

Hadleigh Parkes says he hasn't considered a return to Wales yet amid speculation he will soon be looking for a new club.

The 29-cap centre won his second title with Saitama Panasonic Wild Knights on the weekend, ensuring he remained on the winning side in all of his matches in Japan to date. However, with South African centre Damian de Allende linked with a return to Japan Rugby League One champions Wild Knights, it would appear Parkes will be heading elsewhere.

Moving to another Japanese club would seem the likeliest option, but returns to the country of his birth, New Zealand, or the country that he represented at Test level between 2017 and 2020, Wales, have yet to be ruled out completely. But, Parkes has poured some cold water on the notion that he could be returning to Europe as he admitted things were far from being decided.

Read more: The difficult Wales team meeting to be held as players arrive amid 'last chance' warning

"Who knows," said the 34-year-old when asked about his future. "Who knows at this stage. I'm just cruising along, enjoying the off-season and we'll sort that out later.

"No, I haven't (had any contact from Wales) and I haven't considered it actually. If it's an option, then maybe, but I've enjoyed it over here so we'll see."

When asked about a return to New Zealand, it was a similar answer, with Parkes adding: "Maybe, but not so much to be honest. My wife and I are still enjoying living overseas.

"We've been very fortunate with the places we've been able to get to and the career that we've had. It's been a privilege to be playing at Panasonic and over in Wales as well.

"It's a real honour to get over there. I haven't really thought about going back to New Zealand. It's not come across my mind."

Despite being thousands of miles away, Parkes has kept a close eye on matters in his adopted home. Winning 20 out of his 29 Tests for Wales, Parkes had made himself a reliable figure for Warren Gatland and then Scarlets coach Wayne Pivac.

In fact, such was his bond with Pivac, who had coached him previously at Auckland, Parkes' nickname at the Scarlets was 'Son of Wayne'. As such, he's pretty well-placed to offer insight into the underfire Welsh coach.

"Yeah, I watched the Six Nations games and a lot of highlights from the URC," he said. "There's been some good rugby played but there's been a lot of tough results as well.

"Certainly, if you read what's online at the moment, it sounds like a few people have opinions over there. They're building a lot of depth.

"Wayne has blooded in a lot of young players. Hopefully it will be an exciting year with a big tour of South Africa coming up and then the World Cup next year. I'm sure they'll go on and get better and better after this tour. Him and his coaching staff will have a plan in place. They've tried a lot of players and combinations out.

"Hopefully it all goes well for them and they get better and better. Certainly, get the right combinations and there's no reason that Wales can't do well at the World Cup or in these Tests against South Africa.

"It's going to be a tough challenge. But it's a good challenge as well, going to South Africa and playing a very good side over there. It'll be good for watch. Hopefully for Wayne and his coaching staff, they do well and are successful."

Hadleigh Parkes in action for the Saitama Wild Knights (Getty Images)

Parkes left Wales in 2020 after six seasons at the Scarlets, during which time he had helped the west Walians to a PRO12 title, a PRO14 final and a Champions Cup semi-final. However, the opportunity to bring wife Suzy and daughter Ruby closer to family was impossible to resist.

As a result, he opted for a move to Japan to play his rugby with the Wild Knights, with the move being an unquestionable success with two league titles and victory in each of the 32 matches he played. It's been an experience he admits he's loved.

"I've been pretty fortunate to be part of a good side," he added. There's a lot of good players so it's been a pleasure and a really enjoyable two seasons. I've loved every minute of it.

"I think it's nice that nearly every game is afternoon footy. It's a bit different to Super Rugby or playing up in the northern hemisphere.

"Most days it is nice and sunny for you to play, so you get good running footy. There's a lot of talent up here, whether it's foreigners coming in or the Japanese boys as well.

"It's a good brand to play over here and a lot of fun. Living over here and immersing yourself in the culture too is a cool experience."

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