Rugby evening headlines as Welsh coach reportedly set for shock switch of jobs and star targets Wales return


Your rugby headlines for the evening of Sunday April 17.

Welsh boss set for shock switch – reports

Wales women could be on the brink of losing their coach in a shock job switch, claim reports.

According to the Mail, Wales boss Ioan Cunningham is set to leave his current role after this year’s World Cup and take charge of the Wales under-20s side instead. The paper report that under-20s boss Byron Hayward, a former amateur boxer, plans to return to that sport instead as a coach.

READ MORE: WRU break silence on Six Nations flop under Pivac and his future

The Mail say the news means “Wales women’s progression since they handed 12 players professional contracts at the start of the year is set to be hit by the departure of Cunningham.”

It remains to be seen exactly how this pans out, but sources at the Welsh Rugby Union on Sunday were certainly mystified by the reports. They were distancing themselves from the speculation when suggestions Cunningham and Hayward could be leaving their posts was put to them.

The Women’s World Cup takes place in New Zealand in October and November and newly professionalised Wales are on an upward curve, having beaten Ireland and Scotland in their Six Nations opener before losing heavily to England.

As with Wayne Pivac’s senior team, Hayward’s Welsh under-20s side had a hugely disappointing Six Nations campaign of their own. They managed just a solitary victory over Scotland and finished second from bottom.

Young Wales shipped 53 points against Ireland in their opening match, were heavily defeated 43-14 by England, lost 46-15 at home to France and were then also beaten by Italy in their finale.

Their results, coupled with the Six Nations outcome for Dan Biggar and his team plus the failings of the Welsh regions, led to calls for change amid talk of a fully blown crisis in the Welsh game.

Davies hoping for Wales return

Sam Davies is still hoping for a Wales call under Wayne Pivac after becoming only the fourth man to score 1,000 United Rugby Championship points.

The 28-year-old Dragons No.10 kicked 13 points to take his total to 1,005 in the competition under its various guises as the Gwent side beat the Scarlets 38-27 in Llanelli.

Only Dan Biggar, Dan Parks and Ian Keatley had reached the 1,000-point marker before Davies achieved the feat. Davies played alongside Biggar at the Ospreys for several years and the fact he has hit the milestone is perhaps even more impressive when you consider the quality of his competition for kicking duties in the early part of his career.

But he believes the “competitive edge” between the pair was mutually beneficial, with Biggar racking up a record 1,585 URC points before he departed for Northampton in 2018.

READ MORE: Biggar sent off and facing rugby ban

“A lot of the time they would accommodate me and Dan by playing Dan at 10 and me at 15, which meant I wasn’t kicking, so he was getting to score the points!” Davies told the PA news agency.

“But he was a very good kicker and he remains world class to this day, if not even better than he was back then. It definitely drove me on. I think it drove each of us on, if I’m honest.

“It’s good to have that competitive edge in training, especially as a youngster, and I’d like to think it pushed both of our games on.”

Biggar, of course, is the occupant of the Welsh 10 jersey and chalked up his 100th cap for his country during this year’s Six Nations. Davies, by contrast, has been limited to just eight Test caps despite being a dependable performer at regional level, with Gareth Anscombe, Rhys Priestland and Callum Sheedy among those ahead of him in the pecking order.

“If you read into it too much, I think you can get frustrated,” said Davies, who won his eight caps in an eight-month period from November 2016 to June 2017 when he was seen as a bright young hope for Welsh rugby.

“I thought I played well at the start of the season and maybe there was a door in there with a lot of the 10s being out injured, but it wasn’t to be.

“When it’s not to be, there’s nothing you can do about it other than go out and try and play as best as you can. Things can change quickly, so I will always play at my best level and if anything comes off the back of that then brilliant and I can add to the eight caps that I’ve got.

“If not, then it’s just about trying to give the best for the team that I’m in, and that’s the Dragons.

“There’s a lot of outside-halves in contention with Wales at the moment, so unless your team’s going well as an outside-half I suppose it’s going to be tough to push your way into selection talks.”

Young frustrated as Cardiff bow out of Europe

Cardiff boss David Young expressed his frustrations as much improved Cardiff fell 40-33 to Saracens in Sunday’s European Challenge Cup last-16 tie at the StoneX Stadium.

The defeat means Wales’ European challenge for the season ends without any of the regions winning a single game on the field.

But at least Cardiff went down fighting after recent embarrassments at the hands of Welsh rivals Scarlets. They were ahead in third quarter, looking sharp in attack and tackling hard in defence.

Tomos Williams had a particularly strong game that saw him score a solo try and then set a touchdown up for Owen Lane. Rhys Carre also crossed for the visitors.

But Saracens had enough about them to withstand Cardiff’s challenge, with Sean Maitland scoring twice and Dominic Morris, Aled Davies and man-of-the-match Max Malins also touching down.

Young said afterwards: “It was a one-score game for most of the game and it was a game we could have won I feel. We left some points out there.

“I am pleased with today but it leaves a little bit of frustration over where that’s been the last two weeks really. Mark McCall said to me that’s a game he thought we could have won.”

Welsh boss questions head injuries

Dragons boss Dean Ryan has outlined his concerns over the way head injuries in rugby are being handled after Jonathan Davies avoided a red card during the Gwent team’s win over the Scarlets.

Wales veteran and Scarlets skipper Davies escaped with just a yellow after catching Josh Lewis with a high tackle as the full-back cleared his lines early in the game. Referee Ben Whitehouse and his fellow officials deemed there was enough mitigation for Davies to avoid being sent off.

Asked whether Davies has got off lightly, Dragons director of rugby Ryan decided to flip the question around to those in charge of the game.

He said: “If we ask that that question often enough then maybe they might change some of the answers. Josh was off from that incident and it’s not for me to sit here post-game and comment. We asked questions last week about two incidents that were missed by a TMO, a team of four officials and a citing officer.”

Scarlets head coach Dwayne Peel believed a yellow “was the right decision. There was shoulder to shoulder contact.”

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