On Tuesday, Wales head coach Wayne Pivac named his 35-man squad ahead of the Autumn series. With senior players like Dan Biggar, Liam Williams and Josh Navidi all unavailable through injury, there were going to be some new faces.
Scarlets pair Dane Blacker and Sam Costelow receive their first call-ups to the national side. Flanker Josh Macloed is back in the international fold after injury cruelly ruled him out of an international cap back in 2021. Dragons winger Rio Dyer is included for the first time.
Meanwhile, a selection call that caught the eye of many was the inclusion of Ospreys centre Joe Hawkins.
Despite the good start to the season for Cardiff centre Max Llewellyn, Pivac has opted for the 20-year-old for the autumn. Rugby correspondent Iestyn Rhys Thomas takes a closer look at the 20-year-old Ospreys centre.
Joe Hawkins: Who is he?
Career so far –
He started off playing at the junior level for Powntardawe RFC and attended Cwmtawe Comprehensive School before switching to Neath Athletic. With plenty of rugby connections in his family, his dad David played for Aberavon and Carmarthen Quins.
Also, his uncle Dan was scrum half for Neath and Swansea. Hawkins surged through the Ospreys academy and made his debut for the regional side against Leinster in 2020, he has made 20 appearances so far for his region.
Ospreys centre Joe Hawkins was a standout player in Wales U20s Six Nations campaign, and has been named captain for the upcoming U20 Six Nations Summer Series in Italy! Here he is for @CwmtaweSchool at @RPNS7 in his younger days, proud of you @JoeHawkins121 👏🏴🏉 https://t.co/gpPtWQhTqv pic.twitter.com/aR8tz4WsK9— Cwmtawe PE (@CwmtawePE) June 17, 2022
Last summer, he was named captain of the Wales u20s as they went out to Italy to compete in the summer series.
Physical carrier of the ball
One of the biggest attributes Joe Hawkins has would be his size and carrying, he stands at 6’ and weighs over 15 stone.
This means he is going to be a tricky customer to stop when he’s running at full tilt. We saw this in last season’s URC clash away in Connacht where he scored his first Ospreys try as he bumped off a defender to score under the posts.
If you’re a fan of to-in angles, then Hawkins produced this during the U20s Six Nations as he scored against Scotland. In the opening round of the URC, the Scarlets knew that the youngster would be a threat but in the build-up to the first Ospreys try, Hawkins runs a brilliant decoy line to take a couple of defenders with him.
Skill set to exceed at number 10
Nowadays in rugby, the inside centre can’t just smash it into contact for the entire game. Kicking is now a vital part of any centre in the world, with some coaches even opting for a second fly-half to play at 12 as a second playmaker – Owen Farrell being a prime example.
Hawkins is a 12 that has all the ability to play at fly-half, he featured there against Sale Sharks in the Champions Cup earlier this year. His goal-kicking can be anywhere from his own half If not more and kicking out of hand is very good and cross-field kicks and chips in behind are a regular feature, the ability of his passing is also top-notch.
What will Hawkins bring to Wales?
Maybe the introduction of Hawkins to the national side could be the spark for Pivac to slightly change the way his side plays. It could see Hawkins start in a 10/12 axis with clubmate Gareth Anscombe.
Having a second playmaker in the backline could be key for Wales, they attempted it with Owen Watkin but it could thrive with Hawkins in the 12 jersey.
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