It could be a case of “the sky’s the limit” for surprise addition to the Wales squad Christ Tshiunza, according to Exeter Chiefs director of rugby Rob Baxter.
The 19-year-old, who plays in the back-row and the second-row, moved to Wales from DR Congo in 2010 and has had a rapid rise to the top after coming through the ranks at Cardiff’s Whitchurch High School, which also produced past pupils like Sam Warburton, Gareth Bale and Geraint Thomas.
In action shortly after call-up
The uncapped teenager did not have much time to celebrate his Test call-up as he was turning out for Exeter University in a cup game against Cardiff University within an hour of his selection for Wales’ upcoming Tests against New Zealand, South Africa, Fiji and Australia.
“I am not surprised,” Exeter rugby director Baxter said. “It’s probably a little bit early in his rugby career – I don’t think even Christ would mind me saying that – but I can understand the reasons why.
“There is a real physical presence there, he is going to be a big, athletic man.
“He has got very good speed, he is big, strong and quick, quick off the ground lineout-wise and he likes to bump into people. So those core fundamentals of what it takes to be a rugby player are there.
“And now, really, it’s just about how far he can get. It is about playing plenty of rugby and training as well as he can.
“He is probably one of those where right here and now the sky’s the limit a little bit.”
Wales U20 international Tshiunza can play across the back five, with Wales naming him among their lock contingent.
Wales head coach Wayne Pivac said: “We are looking at the here and now, and we are also looking at the 2023 World Cup.
“He is a great athlete, he has got a good skill-set. He obviously lacks game-time in senior rugby, but he is in a good place at Exeter in terms of working under Rob Baxter.
“He brings something that no-one else probably has in the country in terms of his height and athleticism, so it is getting him involved at an early stage for his development.
“Whether he will play rugby in this series, time will tell, but we want to get him in, get him around the senior players and get him used to the environment.”
Meanwhile, Scotland head coach Gregor Townsend has announced a 36-man squad for a two-day training camp ahead of their first game of this year’s Autumn Nations Series.
The group brings together predominantly home-based players, 19 of whom featured in the 2021 mid-year squad which was unable to play its three intended matches due to Covid-19.
Townsend has also brought in four new faces with an uncapped quartet of three forwards and a back.
Edinburgh forwards Pierre Schoeman and Marshall Sykes are joined by midfield back Charlie Savala in the training group.
There is also a call-up for Edinburgh-born Sharks loose forward Dylan Richardson, who qualifies for Scotland through his father.