Wales ‘excited’ by potential of former rugby league star Regan Grace

The former St Helens player could be part of the Wales squad in Australia.

Andrew Baldock
Thursday 20 June 2024 20:55 BST
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Regan Grace is in contention for Wales’ tour of Australia (Nick Potts/PA)
Regan Grace is in contention for Wales’ tour of Australia (Nick Potts/PA) (PA Archive)

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Louise Thomas

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Regan Grace has been described as an “X-factor” player following his shock call-up to Wales’ summer training squad.

Former rugby league star Grace, who has only played two senior games of union, could now travel to Australia for a tour highlighted by Tests against the Wallabies on July 6 and 13.

Wales head coach Warren Gatland will finalise his travelling group after Saturday’s Twickenham clash against South Africa.

He is expected to cut the current training squad by five or six players, but Grace might find himself firmly in contention after Ospreys wing Keelan Giles was released because of a groin injury.

Grace, who signed a contract with Bath in April, would not have been eligible for the Springboks encounter as it falls outside World Rugby’s summer Test window and Wales’ England-based players cannot be considered for selection.

The 27-year-old scored 89 tries for St Helens during a league career that saw him feature in three Grand Final-winning teams.

“We have lost a few in the back three and he has got speed. He has got that X-factor,” Wales assistant coach Jonathan Humphreys said.

You can't buy what he has got, and we are excited to have him here

Jonathan Humphreys

“It is great to get him in the environment and get to know him a bit better.

“You can’t buy what he has got and we are excited to have him here. He has got gas and he can make things happen.”

Grace ruptured his Achilles tendon in August 2022 ahead of joining French Top 14 club Racing 92, but he did not feature for them after suffering an injury relapse six months later.

The 27-year-old linked up with Bath to continue his rehabilitation and he played in friendlies earlier this year against Leinster and Gloucester as he returned to full fitness.

Bath then announced a contract for the Port Talbot-born wing until the end of next season, with an option for another year.

Speaking in April, Bath head of rugby Johann van Graan said: “Regan has impressed both on and off the pitch over the last few months.

“He has a clear point of difference in his play and that will be very valuable for our team. It’s great to have Regan on board.”

Wales’ difficult build-up to facing the world champions has continued with prop Henry Thomas being ruled out.

Scarlets forward Thomas had been due to start, but he is now sidelined because of a foot injury, with Keiron Assiratti summoned instead of him and Harri O’Connor joining the replacements.

Humphreys added: “It is an innocuous injury from scrummaging on Tuesday.

“He went to see a specialist last night. It looks pretty positive and we are going to treat that pretty aggressively.”

Wales have lost their last six Tests and they are without numerous front-line players, including a sizeable England-based contingent that contains the likes of Nick Tompkins, Dafydd Jenkins and Tommy Reffell.

Injury absentees include Thomas, Giles, Jac Morgan, Taulupe Faletau, Tomos Williams and Adam Beard, with Josh Adams, Ryan Elias and Will Rowlands all being rested.

Asked about the size of Wales’ challenge, Humphreys said: “It’s huge. If you are in the Welsh pack, it is unbelievably exciting.

“It is a fantastic opportunity for players who have been on the fringes. If you can stand out in this game you have got a big future.

“The preparation has been intense. There is not a person in this environment who doesn’t want to win.”

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