Work-in-progress Wales close to clicking – Callum Sheedy

Callum Sheedy believes Wales are “not a million miles away” from clicking as they head into their Autumn Nations Cup finale against Italy on Saturday.

A year that began for Wales with them beating the Azzurri 42-0 will end behind closed doors at Parc y Scarlets, having lost seven of their last eight Tests.

Bristol fly-half Sheedy has been among a number of newcomers to impress on the road to World Cup 2023, and he makes his second international start this weekend.

When the dust settles on a testing campaign, Wales head coach Wayne Pivac can look back on the emergence of players like Sheedy, his half-back partner on Saturday Kieran Hardy, Scarlets centre Johnny Williams, Gloucester wing Louis Rees-Zammit, plus Cardiff Blues flankers James Botham and Shane Lewis-Hughes.

Sheedy said: “I definitely think I’ve improved as a player and person. I will leave on Sunday a much better player and more mature person.

“We are not a million miles away from it clicking. Performances and results haven’t quite been there yet, but it is going to click soon.

“It’s not easy when new coaches and players come in, when there is a bit of change. People shouldn’t expect it to happen overnight.

“We are a work-in-progress at the moment in terms of using a different game-plan.

“We are creating opportunities. It’s about being clinical and making sure we take those opportunities when they become available, because in Test match rugby you might only get one, two or three opportunities.

“Test match level is just another level in terms of how quickly the defences put you under pressure. You have to make the right decision in a split second.”

Wales v Georgia – Autumn Nations Cup – Parc y Scarlets
Wales v Georgia – Autumn Nations Cup – Parc y Scarlets

Sheedy and Hardy teamed up for Wales’ victory over Georgia a fortnight ago – and it is a partnership forged in the unlikely setting of Jersey.

They played 14 games together for the Championship club in 2017 – Sheedy was on a four-month loan from Bristol – and were also colleagues at Wales Under-16 level.

Sheedy added: “Kieran became my best mate out there. He helped me a lot, and we got to know each other very well.

Trio of former Reds on 🏴󠁧󠁢󠁷󠁬󠁳󠁿 parade: Messrs Hardy & Sheedy back in tandem in starting XV this Sat, with Will Rowlands partnering 'AWJ' in the engine room. 👏🇯🇪🏉

— Jersey Reds (@jerseyrfc) December 2, 2020

“We probably joked about it (playing for Wales together) because, at the time, we were a million miles away.

“We used to have a laugh and a joke about it, but he came back to the Scarlets, I went back to Bristol and we grew as players.

“Then it became a more achievable target. We still have a laugh and a joke now about the Jersey days, but they were massive in terms of our development.”

Cardiff-born Sheedy could have opted to aim for Test recognition with Ireland – his father is Irish – and he represented England in a non-cap game against the Barbarians last year.

Wales v Georgia – Autumn Nations Cup – Parc y Scarlets
Wales v Georgia – Autumn Nations Cup – Parc y Scarlets

But he has quickly become an important part of Pivac’s plans.

“I am very proud of the fact that my father is Irish – it’s a proud link – and I am very proud that I am almost an adopted Bristolian in a certain sense,” Sheedy said.

“But when I speak about Wales, I get that feeling in my heart. I get those butterflies, and the hairs on the back of your neck stand up.

“Deep down, I always knew. When Wayne spoke to me, it just confirmed that, because I was almost crying.

“I am glad I reacted like that, and I am glad it made me feel like that. It made it certain to me that red was my colour.”