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Wales Online
Wales Online
Mark Orders

Warren Gatland told 'he'd be mad' not to consider exiled trio on other side of the world as 60-cap rule reviewed

It had been billed as All Black Ngani Laumape’s big day as he headed into his debut in Japanese rugby.

But the glamour signing from Stade Francais ended up being upstaged by a Welsh forward from Maesycoed who played a key role in Wales' 2019 Six Nations Grand Slam.

Cory Hill scored two tries for Yokohama Canon Eagles as they defeated Kobe Steelers, 15-cap centre Laumape and all, 39-30 in Kanagawa. His brace came in the second half, helping the Eagles hold onto their lead after they went into the interval 15-13 ahead. It was a typically energetic show from the 32-cap Welshman, of whom Warren Gatland was a big fan during the coach's first stint with Wales.

Read more: Winners and losers as coach chokes up after famous win and Europe descends into shambles

Indeed, the New Zealander rated Hill so highly he took him to the 2019 World Cup even though the back-five utility man was carrying a leg injury which eventually forced him home before he could play a game.

Hill had scored a try against England the previous winter and played in four of that year’s Six Nations games as Wales won a Grand Slam. Gatland enjoyed all that he brought on the pitch, his lineout work, his ability at breakdowns, his resolve in defence and his passing and handling skills. Oh, and Hill could also cover two positions, namely blindside flanker and second row. He had also captained Wales.

Then Gatland departed the scene and Hill started just two Tests under Wayne Pivac before exiting for Japan, with an off-field incident involving two other men which saw a women’s home damaged meaning he didn’t exactly leave on the highest note possible, albeit he did offer an apology.

But he is well-thought of in Japan and could not have hoped for a better start to the season.

If the weekend went well for him, it proved a different story for one of his mates from the Wales class of 2019.

Playing for Saitama Wild Knights, Hadleigh Parkes had gone unbeaten over two seasons in Top League rugby since departing Wales.

But his time with new club Ricoh Black Rams didn’t begin well as they lost 34-8 to Shane Williams’ old team Mitsubishi Dynaboars.

Hadleigh Parkes has enjoyed life since leaving Wales but tasted defeat for the first time in Japan over the weekend (Hadleigh Parkes/ Instagram)
Hadleigh Parkes in trademark action (Buddhika Weerasinghe/Getty Images)

Interestingly, Williams gave Hill, Parkes and their fellow Wales international Jake Ball a mention in a column for The Rugby Paper over the weekend, suggesting it might be an idea for Wales to consider running the rule over them.

“It’s interesting that both the South African and Australian coaches are happy to pick players playing in Japan for international duty, while England have refused to do so,” wrote Williams. “The Kiwis give their best players a sabbatical to play there so they can earn some extra cash. I wonder what Warren Gatland’s view will be on the three Welshmen currently playing there.

“I know the 60-cap rule theoretically prohibits Parkes, Cory Hill and Jake Ball from playing for Wales again while they are overseas, but given the holes in the squad in both midfield and second row he’d be mad not to at least take a look at them.

“They might not want to be involved again, but if they are playing well enough, then why not consider them? We’re hardly well-blessed for centres, while the second row is a contentious area given the age of Alun Wyn Jones at one end of the spectrum, and Dafydd Jenkins and [Christian] Tshiunza at the other.” You can read about Jake Ball's new life here.

Ball has been playing for Green Rockets Tokatsu, and doing well, proving top quality last term as he adapted quickly to the firm and fast pitches, his 121kg frame proving no impediment.

Wales international Jake Ball (Instagram)

With his strong scrummaging and steam-train work when clearing out opponents at rucks, he would be a useful option to Gatland for the World Cup, but, first, calls have to be made over the 60-cap rule and then, as Williams suggests, players have to be consulted if any tweaks allow.

WRU chief Steve Phillips has admitted the rule will be under review over the coming weeks. It's possible the number could be lowered from 60, allowing someone like Ball, who left Wales after his 50th appearance, the chance to re-ignite his international career.

When asked whether the number of caps may change Phillips said: "I think that's the conversation. The concept is a sound one.

"Australia recently changed theirs to 30 but I think the concept is the key thing. I'm not saying we need to change it but that's not to say we don't need to review it."

Hill has 32 caps, while Parkes has 29, although it is hard to see him being in the Wales frame at the age of 35 anyway. It’s a contentious area and the certainty is not everyone will agree on a route forward.

But Williams' proposal might just interest Gatland if circumstances develop. Over to those who draw up the regulations, then, to see what their collective take is.


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