Wales’ new wing wonder Eli Walker has warned George North and Alex Cuthbert he is gunning for their places.
North and Cuthbert starred in last season’s Six Nations Grand Slam triumph with their mix of pace and brutal power but it is Ospreys’ three-quarter Walker who is the form winger in Welsh rugby.
The uncapped 20-year-old, a gifted athlete at schoolboy level, has scored five tries in 13 appearances for his region this season but it is in the Heineken Cup where he has made the biggest impact.
When the Ospreys stunned Toulouse in December, Walker was the star of the show. The Wales under-20 cap completely outplayed opposite number Vincent Clerc, leaving the France winger for dead for his try and making several thrilling, scything bursts through the opposing defence to secure the man-of-the-match award.
Walker is battling to be fit for this weekend’s Six Nations opener against Ireland due to a hamstring problem, but has set himself the task of usurping one of his rivals before the tournament is over.
“It’s definitely a goal to be capped,” he said. “I’d like to think I’m not here just to make up the numbers but to put pressure on the other guys. I’d like to think we feed off each other. My form has been good and I came back from the Under-20 World Cup [where Wales beat the junior All Blacks] last summer with a lot of confidence to take into this season.
“It has been great to get a few games under my belt with the Ospreys and I’ve built from there. Last season it was quite hard jumping in and out of the team but, when you have a run of games, you get into a rhythm and have some continuity.”
While North and Cuthbert will be difficult to shift from their spots, Walker does offer interim head coach Rob Howley a different threat to those posed by his giant rivals. And he has no fears about going up against them for a Wales place. “I don’t know about it being daunting,” he said. “I suppose Cuthbert and George are big and powerful guys but I like to think I have got speed in my game and I’m a different type of player.”