Six Nations: Josh Adams’ rapid progress to become a Welsh threat

Josh Adams is the leading try scorer in the Aviva Premiership, despite playing for lowly Worcester. Picture: Nigel French/PA
Josh Adams is the leading try scorer in the Aviva Premiership, despite playing for lowly Worcester. Picture: Nigel French/PA
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Eddie Jones has been causing mayhem in the Scotland camp before a ball has even been kicked in anger by picking Scotland’s Gary Graham, son of George, in his England squad, so it is nice to know that Murrayfield are not the only ones asleep at the wheel.

The Scarlets have a good pathway and an excellent reputation for developing the local talent in west Wales, but the form winger in Warren Gatland’s squad was one that got away. Josh Adams came through Llanelli Rugby Club and the Scarlets, who he represented (one match to be exact) before being encouraged to seek fame and fortune elsewhere.

He pitched up at Worcester Warriors at the start of season 2015-16, but not for long. Worcester loaned him to National One side Cinderford and it was there that he learned his stock in trade of try-scoring. He only made his first Premiership start for Worcester in December of 2016 and in little over a year he has progressed to the biggest of the big leagues.

It is easy to see why he has impressed Warren Gatland. Adams has serious pace and is physical with it, but perhaps his best attribute is anticipation because the winger runs some wonderful support lines and almost inevitably pops up at the end of any movement to finish it off. He is a natural, predatory poacher.

He tops the try scoring in the Aviva Premiership with nine touchdowns, one ahead of Falcons’ Vereniki Goneva and Scotland’s own Byron McGuigan of Sale Sharks, who both boast eight.

Adams has achieved that in a set-piece orientated Worcester club that is struggling at the wrong end of the table. Just imagine what he might achieve in an attacking team at the top of their game.

In addition, Adams was the Aviva Premiership player of the month for December and the call-up to the Wales squad is the icing on the cake for the 22-year-old.

“This has been my ambition since I started playing rugby,” said Adams upon hearing of his call up.

“You talk with your mates when you are younger watching the Six Nations down the club how good it would be to put on the shirt and run out at the Principality Stadium. This is one step towards that, although there is a lot of hard work ahead.

“It is the best start to a year I have ever had. I picked up a bit of form at the right time and have managed to get myself in the squad. I was surprised but also over the moon to be selected. It has been a happy day for everyone in my family.”

When he selected the Worcester Warrior, Gatland probably had little intention to play Adams in this Six Nations, but given the slew of injuries to key players the newbie must be edging a little closer to that coveted red shirt.

Injuries to Liam Williams, Rhys Priestland, and Dan Biggar means that Kiwi Gareth Anscombe is now favourite to start at ten. Gatland has been incredibly loyal to Leigh Halfpenny at full-back, although he can’t get a start for the Scarlets, and Rhys Priestland would be the form pick.

Meanwhile, two wingers must be found from just five players still standing: Hallam Amos, Alex Cuthbert, Steff Evans, Adams himself and George North, who may make a late run on the rails. Suddenly that first cap doesn’t look too far off, especially when the inevitable rigours of a long campaign add to that injury list.

But whether Adams starts against Scotland or not, the Welsh XV will be largely unrecognisable from recent seasons largely because of injury. In the absence of Jake Ball, Bradley Davies is widely tipped for a recall in a lumpy second row with Alun-Wyn Jones.

The back three of the scrum are anyone’s guess, with Faletau missing. British Lion Ross Moriarty is desperately short of game time, not that that usually worries Gatland, and Aaron Shingler, left, looks a shoo-in at six for his lineout abilities alone, never mind his extraordinary athleticism about the park. Cardiff’s Josh Nividi and James Davies of the Scarlets could be in an arm wrestle for that number seven shirt.

The centres are another area of concern, but first Gatland has to decide whether to play Owen Williams as a second playmaker in the number 12 shirt or opt for the safe pair of hands that is Hadleigh Parks, who would then probably pair up with his Scarlets’ colleague Scott Williams. That midfield duo has a solid look to it but is a little light on creativity and ambition, which is at least in keeping with Gatland’s rugby ethos over the years.

Wales might need Adams scoring instincts after all.