Explosive Wainwright will keep knocking on Welsh door
Having been a permanent fixture in the Wales squad for some four years, it’s a new experience for Aaron Wainwright to find himself surplus to requirements.
But it’s clear he’s not about to settle for a role as the forgotten man. Having been left out of Wayne Pivac’s autumn squad, the 36-cap back row sent out a timely reminder of his international quality with an excellent display in the Dragons’ 32-25 BKT United Rugby Championship victory over the Ospreys at Rodney Parade.
He was unavailable for Wales’ summer tour of South Africa due to a fractured heel and had only started one of his region’s first five matches in the league this season, leaving him somewhat out of the spotlight when the make-up of the national squad was being deliberated.
But handed the No 6 jersey against the Ospreys, he looked to be right back to his best, galloping around the paddock like a two-year-old, showing up particularly well in the wider channels with his dynamic athleticism and footwork.
“I thought Aaron was superb,” said Dragons RFC head coach Dai Flanagan.
“He’s an elusive, strong ball-carrier and we saw that out there. He’s so explosive and, having him on your shoulder, he holds people, preserves space and we can execute then.
“He’s had to bide his time this season. Sean Lonsdale has come in and been really impressive with his lineout defence, but Aaron has put his hand up out there.
“He was really good at what he’s good at and the other stuff will come, for sure. He has some specific work-ons. That’s obviously between him and Wayne.”
It was one of the Dragons players who has made the Wales squad that was named Player of the Match, with uncapped winger Rio Dyer celebrating his call-up with a brace of sparkling tries.
“How good was Rio?,” said Flanagan. “He was superb all game. It’s so pleasing to see players express themselves and back themselves.
“He is learning day by day, he is getting more touches and boy can he finish.”
Dyer is now in line to make his Wales debut over the coming weeks, potentially even in the autumn opener against New Zealand given the injury issues on the wing.
“We are all rooting for him as a club,” said Flanagan.
“He has been superb for us and we can’t wait to see him step up to the next level. He has got it all. He can catch high balls, he chases kicks well and, fundamentally, they are the two most important things in international rugby for wingers. He’s also shown what he can do when he gets the opportunity to score tries.”
Reflecting on the team performance against the Ospreys, Flanagan said: “I am super proud of the group. I thought the effort they gave was tremendous and they also showed some rugby smarts.
“We were 7-0 down after 40 seconds. If you were a low on confidence group, the easiest thing would be to crumble. But they didn’t, they tightened up, they got together, they stuck to a plan and I thought we were quite dominant in certain areas for a lot of that game.
“It was a bit twitchy at the end, but there are great characters in the group. It’s another step. It’s important we get better all the time. We have got a good group, we are all here for the right reasons, we all want to be successful.”
Next up for the Dragons is a home game against bottom-of-the-table Zebre Parma on Saturday, as they go in search of their third win of the BKT URC season.
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