Sometimes, the wheels of production simply refuse to turn as quickly as people would like.
It tooks 10 years for The Coliseum to be built, for instance.
Couldn’t get the staff, perhaps.
Anyway, that’s around the same amount of time Wales have been trying to develop an international full-back other than Liam Williams and Leigh Halfpenny.
The right personnel not available again?
It’s one way of looking at it.
In his critique of the Welsh Rugby Union and Welsh rugby’s myriad problems recently, Jonathan Davies brought up the prolonged effort to see a new and exciting No. 15 roll off the production line to challenge Halfpenny or Williams.
“Liam Williams and Leigh Halfpenny have been full-backs for Wales for the last 10 years. Nobody coming through,” he commented.
He’s right, too.
A vaccine may have been discovered in double-quick time for coronavirus and NASA may have found a way to fly a helicopter drone on Mars, but Wales haven’t been able to identify anyone capable of acting as a reliable last line of defence for the long haul in the absence of Messrs Williams and Halfpenny.
It hasn’t been for want of trying.
Warren Gatland used a few fly-halves there in the likes James Hook, Rhys Patchell and Matthew Morgan, who had started out as a 10 before being converted to 15.
But it wasn’t altogether certain Hook liked being full-back, while Patchell had injuries and Morgan may or may not have caused Gatland’s hair to go 50 shades greyer than it was by trying to run from his own 22 at a key stage in a World Cup encounter with Fiji.
“We know how exciting Matthew Morgan is,” said Wales’ coach later. “There were a couple of moments when my heart was in my mouth when he ran from under the posts.
“But you don’t want to take that away from him.”
Maybe so, but Gatland did take Morgan’s Wales place away from him, with the free spirit not playing for his country again under the Kiwi. Nor has he featured under Wayne Pivac, with perceived chinks in his defensive armour not helping his cause.
In Gatland’s early days in Wales, he had a look at Jamie Roberts as his man at the back and Dan Evans also won a couple of caps. But it soon became obvious that Roberts’ future lay elsewhere, while Evans, despite showing consistency at regional level over a number of years, didn’t get another chance.
Sometimes, circumstances just haven’t played ball.
Morgan Stoddart, for instance, was a player who ran so hard some of his team-mates might have considered ducking out of training, but injury cut short his playing career.
Then there’s Hallam Amos, a richly talented player who is still only 27.
Gatland tried him out at the back as he didn’t think he had the pace to make it as a Test wing.
But Amos didn’t really have the opportunities to make a proper play for the position. Over eight years, he started just seven games in the No. 15 jersey.
Now he’s about to wind up his rugby days prematurely to pursue a career in medicine. With no-one pressuring Williams and Halfpenny, it’s a bigger loss to Pivac than many might appreciate.
Pivac has used four players at the back in 25 Tests.
His go-to men have, predictably, been the L-men — Liam and Leigh, with bomb-defuser Williams and master game-reader Halfpenny having started 21 outings between them as Pivac’s custodians.
Amos and Johnny McNicholl have played twice apiece there under the current Wales coach. At 31, McNicholl is older than the 30-year-old Williams, though, so he’s unlikely to figure in the Welsh succession plan.
Likewise, Gareth Anscombe, a man who potentially has the gifts to do the job, is just a month younger than his Williams. Again, then, not someone for the long-term.
Jordan Williams? A wonderfully talented runner along Matthew Morgan lines, but does he have the defensive game to operate as a Test full-back?
We could go on.
But at some point the issue needs to be dealt with.
Wales certainly can’t ignore it; Pivac or whoever his successor is can’t lapse into Mr Micawber mode and simply hope something will turn up.
Here are some of the likely lads who might feature as potential full-back options for Wales selectors moving well forward…
Jacob Beetham (Cardiff)
Cardiff’s Jacob Beetham after his debut against Toulouse
(Image: Ben Evans/Huw Evans Agency)
Hit the headlines earlier this season when he received an ovation from the Arms Park crowd after being red carded during the Heineken Champions Cup clash with Toulouse.
He had misjudged a tackle on Baptiste Germaine and the card was inevitable, but Beetham had been accomplished in pretty much all he did before then.
One game proves only so much, of course, but the youngster, who can play at fly-half as well as full-back, impressed former Wales U20s coach Ioan Cunningham when he worked with him.
“He’s got the athletic ability to do it at this level,” Cunningham said.
“He’s big, strong and he reads the game well to put him in good positions. I was pleased for him and delighted to see how it went for him. It’s great to see how he showcased his ability. He’s a very talented player.
“Crucially, he can cover fly-half as well as 15 if he needs to.
“He has a real good skill set, can kick well, and he’s big, athletic and deceivingly quick.
“I found his whole attitude brilliant when I coached him. He’s open to learn, thirsty for knowledge and desperate to get better.”
There’s potential, then.
The challenge is to give Beetham the exposure he needs to kick-on.
Mat Protheroe (Ospreys)
Mat Protheroe looks for a way through against Racing
(Image: Huw Evans Picture Agency)
He’s 25 and so already has miles on the clock in senior rugby.
Some will wonder why he hasn’t been seen in a Wales squad yet.
Well, he figured in English rugby until 2020, which may have counted against him — locating over the River Severn has worked against others when availability for fallow weeks and out-of-window games is taken into account.
And maybe Protheroe been passed over because he’s a bit of a throwback, an on-pitch adventurer who likes to counter and take risks.
Seeing him breaking from deep calls to mind former Wales and Swansea wing Mark Titley, another back-three man who ran first and asked questions later.
It can exhilarating to watch.
But Titley operated in the amateur era.
Protheroe plays in more regimented rugby times.
There is nothing wrong with his defence, though.
He may be a shade light in a sport where, for good or ill, big has become beautiful, but he’s a tough customer who always rarely shirks a tackle.
For the Ospreys, he’s worth his weight in gold because he’s so creative.
Potentially, he could interest Wales as well.
Cameron Winnett (Cardiff)
Cameron Winnet beats Joe Marchant to score
(Image: Huw Evans Picture Agency)
He hasn’t long turned 19 but he looked to the manner born when he played for Cardiff in the Heineken Champions Cup clash with Harlequins before Christmas.
Winnett scored an early try and inspired confidence with his calm demeanour, taking a number of high balls and posing a threat on the counter.
At the time he was only 18.
The youngster has a lot of natural talent and is evidently capable of handling big occasions.
Maybe it’s a bit soon for him to be appearing on this list, but he is a prospect.
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Tom Rogers (Scarlets)
Tom Rogers in try scoring action
(Image: Gruffydd Thomas/Huw Evans Agency)
Plenty of those watching the Scarlets A team beat the Dragons Development side 29-10 in Newport in November considered Rogers the most dangerous player on the pitch.
Playing at full-back, he troubled the opposition with his winger’s pace and also showcased his step.
Rogers also competes over the ball, along the lines of the player with whom he has been most often compared, Liam Williams, and he is brave in the air.
He possibly wasn’t ready for Test rugby when capped by Wales last summer.
But he could yet develop into a high-quality player.
With Williams heading for Cardiff next season, it will be interesting to see if the Scarlets opt to use him more at full-back, depending on Leigh Halfpenny’s availability.
Ioan Nicholas (Scarlets)
It’s a bit of a punt, but Nicholas is another player with a wideman’s speed who could make a mark at 15 in the seasons ahead.
He’s down on the Scarlets’ website as a wing or centre but Nicholas featured at full-back against Leinster in Dublin earlier on in the campaign he came up with a couple of moments of real class, none more so than when he accepted an offload from Johnny Williams, made ground and drew his man before sending out a well-timed pass for Johnny McNicholl to score.
Throughout the game Nicholas showed pace and skill and made an impact.
He had quite looked the part off the bench against the Lions earlier this month and looks a player the Scarlets could develop.
Should such development takes place as a full-back, who knows where it could take him.
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