Six nations 2024: What does it take to wear Wales’ 10 at Twickenham?

Ioan Lloyd
Ioan Lloyd will make his first start for Wales against England
Venue: Twickenham, London Date: Saturday, 10 February Kick-off: 16:45 GMT
Coverage: Watch live on S4C; listen on BBC Radio 5 Sports Extra, BBC Radio Wales & Radio Cymru; text commentary on BBC Sport website and app.

In the week Welsh rugby has mourned arguably its finest ever fly-half, Ioan Lloyd prepares to write a new chapter in the famous jersey.

The 22-year-old makes his first Test start at Twickenham, adding his name to a prestigious cast of Welsh 10s.

Wales were England’s first opponents at Twickenham in 1910 and the venue has been a field of dreams for some and a graveyard for others ever since.

From Cliff Morgan’s Grand Slams in the 1950s, Dai Watkins and Barry John in the 1960s to the great 1970s era.

John never lost at Twickenham before Phil Bennett inspired what remains Wales’ biggest win at England’s HQ, 21-9 in 1976.

That Lloyd should make his first Test start less than a week after John died adds even greater poignancy to his inheritance of the number 10 shirt.

Lloyd is certainly out of the John mould, an elusive runner with the ability to conjure something out of nothing just as Jonathan Davies and James Hook did in modern classic encounters.

There have been woes as well, not least David Evans making only his second start in the jersey in a record 34-6 defeat in 1990.

Iestyn Harris’ first Six Nations start at 10 could not prevent an even worse record 50-10 defeat in 2002, while Gareth Anscombe suffered what would prove a two-year injury before the 2019 World Cup.

BBC Sport Wales speaks to four Welsh fly-halves who have experienced both the highs and lows of playing at TW1.

Jonathan Davies

Jonathan Davies plays for Wales against England at Twickenham in 1988
Jonathan Davies lined up alongside club fly-halves Mark Ring, Bleddyn Bowen and Tony Clement in 1988

He was among four club outside-halves deployed in 1988 by Wales who ran England ragged in the 11-3 win that set up a Triple Crown.

“Twickenham is a nervous and daunting place, but it’s a little bit special to go and win there,” said Davies.

“It’s a great place to play, but it’s always tough because England have always got a good pack.

“So you have to communicate with the backline, orchestrate everybody and get your basics right. You have to see where their weaknesses are and just wait until the opportunity comes.

“Last week’s experience will give him [Lloyd] a lot of confidence, but he can’t chase the game from the start.

“Hopefully Wales will play wider and Lloyd will be controlling it [but] it’s all dependent on the forwards. If it’s slow ball he has to kick or tell George North to take it up the middle.

“He is the sole place kicker in the starting side and that could be the one issue. He just has to nail his kicks and concentrate on what he has done in the past.”

Davies added: “We had four fly-halves in the side in 1988, but there aren’t many around at the moment. We have to try and develop 10s and 15s because we have inexperienced players.”

James Hook

James Hook holds hands up against England
James Hook’s first two Six Nations starts at 10 were both wins against England

The young fly-half made only his second Six Nations start at 10 in Warren Gatland’s first game in charge.

He produced a man of the match display as Wales stunned Twickenham with a 26-19 comeback win and set up a Grand Slam.

“He [Lloyd] will be nervous but excited. There’s probably no bigger game for him than to have his first start at 10 at Twickenham.

“The experience of George North outside and Tomos Williams inside will really help, but he has nothing to fear and can just go out there and express himself.

“He has to go out there and be Ioan Lloyd, the player he’s been picked to be. Don’t try and be a Dan Biggar or any other player. Be yourself.

“He’s been exciting for the Scarlets and is the type of player you would pay and watch. Hopefully he’s allowed to bring that on Saturday.”

Rhys Patchell

Rhys Patchell playing for Wales against England at Twickenham in 2018
Twickenham in 2018 would be the last time Rhys Patchell started a Six Nations match

The Scarlets playmaker, 24 at the time, was singled out by England head-coach Eddie Jones before what was only his second Six Nations start.

Jones talked up the “heat” that Wales’ “third-choice” fly-half would face, and it told as Patchell was replaced early in the second half of a narrow 12-6 loss.

“I saw a different side to international rugby that day. It’s small margins,” recalled Patchell.

“Everybody remembers Eddie on my back and me getting pulled off, but I put in a kick for Gareth Anscombe that was a try but wasn’t given and that could have changed the game.

“I learnt some very valuable lessons that day about how to steer an international game.

“I remember [Wales kicking coach] Neil Jenkins telling me some of the worst days in your career can turn out to be the best because you learn so much from them. I was determined that was going to be the case for me.

“I was aware then the criticism could be cruel and that you’re only an average game away from somebody else being given the shirt and Biggs [Dan Biggar] played the following game.

“There’s a lot of pressure playing in that 10 shirt, whichever country you face, but what an opportunity.

“The only way you learn about playing fly-half for Wales is by playing 10 for Wales and this is the dream, to wear 10 in a big Six Nations game.

“Ioan can do stuff on the field that I can’t do, he doesn’t need any advice. He just needs to remember you’re picked because you’re good enough.”

Dan Biggar

Dan Biggar playing for Wales against England at Twickenham in 2015
Dan Biggar played 112 internationals for Wales

Dan Biggar kicked 23 points, a Welsh record in a single World Cup match, as Wales helped knock hosts England out of the tournament at the pool stage in 2015.

“It is never easy,” said Biggar.

“When you see it on paper, England away at Twickenham, it sounds maybe harder than it is.

“People remember the 2015 win which was incredible but apart from that I have not got that good a record there.

“We have lost a few games but have never been steamrollered there like some other sides.

“The games have been tight, because over the last 10 years, the teams have been relatively evenly matched and home advantage has just favoured sides.

“I don’t expect it to change too much this weekend in terms of it being tight. England will start as favourites but Wales can go there with more confidence and opportunity than people are giving them.

“It is not an easy place to play your first game at 10 but what a brilliant place to go and play. What a game to make your first international start.

“Ioan will be excited but there will be nerves. I am sure Ioan has the ability and temperament because in games like this you have to be mentally strong to tackle these challenges.

“Ioan is an excellent rugby player. The coaches will tell him to play his own game. They will be looking for him to control the game from the off and he has got all the attributes to do that.

“He will know starting a game is different to coming off the bench when you are losing and chancing your arm with nothing to lose.

“It is a different challenge for him this weekend but I am sure he will be fine.”

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