Rugby

Ioan Lloyd benefits from presence of ex-Wales half-backs in adapting to role

The former Bristol back is part of a new-look Wales squad.

Ioan Lloyd made his first Wales start at fly-half against England
Ioan Lloyd in action for Wales Ioan Lloyd made his first Wales start at fly-half against England (David Davies/PA)

Ioan Lloyd feels he has benefited from the presence of former international half-backs Neil Jenkins and Rob Howley in adapting to life as Wales’ number 10.

Lloyd helped orchestrate Wales’ thrilling fightback from 27-0 adrift in their opening Guinness Six Nations game against Scotland, after going on as replacement for an injured Sam Costelow.

His first Wales start then came in the fly-half role at Twickenham last weekend during a 16-14 defeat against England.

Neil Jenkins has been an important guide for Wales fly-half Ioan Lloyd
Neil Jenkins Neil Jenkins has been an important guide for Wales fly-half Ioan Lloyd

The 22-year-old’s impressive versatility has also seen him feature as a full-back, wing and centre during his club and regional career with Bristol and now the Scarlets.

But he admitted that fly-half was his preferred position and he was making the most of having ex-Wales pair Jenkins and Howley, who won almost 150 caps between them, as part of the national squad coaching staff.

“Neil Jenkins has talked a lot about speed into position – and Rob Howley has as well – and also speed from catch to whatever you are going to do, whether it is pass or kick,” Lloyd said.

“We’ve talked a lot through it and obviously I have got to see exactly what he (Jenkins) is talking about over the last couple of weeks. I think that little bit of a reminder has helped me a lot.

“I think the 10 position is one of the game-drivers, one of the main game-leaders, so that sort of pressure is expected.

“It is something that I have anticipated going into the 10 jersey. I think 10s everywhere will take a lot of scrutiny and probably not as much praise as they should in other aspects.

“I am just trying to put my best foot forward and execute my role within the team. There are a lot of learnings from the first two weekends.

“I try not to think about external factors too much, I just try and go out there and play rugby.

“I see myself as a fly-half. Obviously, any opportunity to pull on the red jersey – whether it’s at prop or fly-half – I will take it.”

Sam Costelow missed Wales’ Six Nations clash against England due to injury
Sam Costelow Sam Costelow missed Wales’ Six Nations clash against England due to injury

With Costelow now fit again following a neck problem, it remains to be seen which direction Wales head coach Warren Gatland goes in for fly-half duty against runaway Six Nations title favourites Ireland on Saturday week.

And while Wales have lost their opening two Six Nations games – albeit by a combined margin of just three points – there were also plenty of positive signs from a new-look squad.

Lloyd added: “We talk a lot about playing heads-up rugby, the pictures in front of us and not being afraid to take the opportunities when they come.

“Obviously, there is a fine balance between that and taking risks.

“I think the stuff we tried at the weekend (at Twickenham) weren’t risks. We felt they were on and that is where the space was.

“Execution comes into that then and ours wasn’t good enough at times. I think that is something we can build on.

“There is a confidence around the place. We are a young team, but that doesn’t mean these games are throwaway games. We are still going into them expecting to win and a certain standard from each other.

“The experience isn’t necessarily there from all of us, but we have still got that confidence in training and games that we can execute. When we don’t, it is very disappointing.”