Wayne Pivac backs Sir Ian Botham’s grandson James to have ‘very big future’

Wales boss Wayne Pivac has described James Botham as “a player with a very big future” after selecting him for his Test debut.

Botham – grandson of England cricket great Sir Ian Botham – will makes his Wales bow in Saturday’s Autumn Nations Cup clash against Georgia.

The 22-year-old Cardiff Blues flanker was officially called up to Wales’ Nations Cup squad on Monday and he has played just 13 professional games.

But Cardiff-born Botham, whose father Liam played rugby union and rugby league for a number of clubs, is among three newcomers selected to face Georgia in Llanelli alongside Scarlets backs Johnny Williams and Kieran Hardy.

Wales coaching staff had already identified Botham as a player of possible 2023 World Cup potential, but his chance has come far sooner than expected.

“We had a good look at James earlier in the campaign,” Pivac said. “He has impressed, he has done very well.

“In (flankers) Ross Moriarty and Josh Navidi, we’ve had a couple of guys who have not been able to partake so far, so James has been in and around the group. He is a player with a very big future, we believe.

Sir Ian Botham's grandson has earned a Wales call-up
Sir Ian Botham’s grandson has earned a Wales call-up (Mike Egerton/PA)

“In training, he is a very balanced rugby player. He’s got very good hands and movement with the ball, so he is a good attacking threat as well as a very good defensive player.

“He is good over the ball, he’s strong and his technique is sound. He’s a confident young man without being over-confident.

“I’ve been very impressed with just the conversations we have been having, both about rugby and off-field situations – just learning more about the young man. There is a lot to like about him.

“We will be excited to see him go because, as I say, he came into the squad earlier and had a couple of weeks with us. He impressed all of the coaches.”

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World Cup-winning England centre Will Greenwood (Tim Goode/PA)

Botham is the latest international rugby player off the production line at Sedbergh School in Cumbria, with his fellow former pupils including ex-England captain Will Carling, World Cup-winning England centre Will Greenwood and current Wales prop Tomas Francis.

Former London Irish and Newcastle centre Williams, meanwhile, was diagnosed with testicular cancer last year and underwent chemotherapy before returning to professional rugby 10 months ago.

He represented England and scored a try in a non-cap game against the Barbarians in 2019, but qualifies for Wales through his father, who hails from Rhyl.

Williams’ fellow centre Jonathan Davies could be a doubt for next week’s England game after suffering a knee injury, with Pivac also assessing number eight Taulupe Faletau (knee ligament), plus Moriarty (ankle) and Navidi, who has been working his way back from concussion and is now training.

🥇 First start for @Sheedy95 🆕 @ioanlloyd10 set for international debut@WelshRugbyUnion select 🐻s duo to face @GEORGIARUGBY in @autumnnations 💪

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Elsewhere, Bristol fly-half Callum Sheedy and 19-year-old Gloucester wing Louis Rees-Zammit will make their first Test starts on Saturday after debuts as substitutes in recent games against Ireland and France, respectively.

Pivac has stuck with a pre-planned selection approach to the Georgia fixture, despite a run of six-successive defeats.

He has made 13 changes from the side beaten 32-9 by Ireland in last week’s Nations Cup opener, with only full-back Liam Williams and flanker Justin Tipuric, who captains the team, remaining.

Pivac, who has overseen just two wins from eight games since succeeding Warren Gatland as Wales boss a year ago, said: “The pressure comes internally.

Wales v Scotland – Guinness Six Nations – Parc y Scarlets
Wales head coach Wayne Pivac (David Davies/PA)

“Certainly, we understand that results are what people want to see, and we want to see those ourselves. The guys will be out there very determined to not only win the game, but put in a very good performance.

“At the moment, we’ve been our own worst enemies. We are giving teams far too much possession and territory.

“It’s focusing on eliminating mistakes, working hard in training and making good decisions.”

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