Gatland's last Wales call-up set to have key Jamie Roberts role for Wales going forward

-Credit: (Image: Chris Fairweather/Huw Evans Agency)
-Credit: (Image: Chris Fairweather/Huw Evans Agency)

It's clear that for the time being Welsh rugby is centred on giving youth its chance to shine on the international stage.

Gone are the golden generation who helped Wales achieve a level of success not seen since the halcyon days of the 1970s. Welsh rugby is in a period of transition and Warren Gatland is left with no choice but to put faith in youth.

Some will sink and some will swim but there is reason to get excited by Gatland's latest call-up. Out of the five uncapped players included in Wales' extended summer training squad, Scarlets centre Eddie James is arguably the most intriguing selection.

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This new-look Wales side struggled to find an identity during the Six Nations and there was a school of thought they were playing too much rugby in their own half. But what Wales lacked above all else is powerful and explosive carriers who were able to get them out of trouble and onto the front foot.

This is something which James is very good at. The man from Carmarthen is only 21 but he has the athletic and physical attributes to make an impact in Test rugby.

Yes, he is still raw and it won't happen overnight but the 6ft 4in and 16st 3lbs centre is built for international rugby. It takes a certain type of athlete to excel in the Test arena and on the face of it James fits into that category.

Bearing in mind he has been on the back-foot most of the season, James' carrying stats are impressive in this context making 234 metres with ball in hand over 961 minutes. James has been the shinning light in a very dark season in Llanelli.

When Wales have been successful over the past decade they have had a powerful carrier in the 12 channel who can also offload in the likes of Jamie Roberts and Hadleigh Parkes. James is raw but ticks all those boxes.

When Wales are under pressure they could really do with a 12 who can truck it up the middle and get some go forward. If you think back to that dark day against Italy in March, Wales had no penetration in midfield during the first-half but once Mason Grady, another powerful carrier, came on they got some serious go forward.

James could potentially do that for Wales but to label him a crash ball centre would be doing his all round game a disservice. The former Ysgol Gyfun Gymraeg Bro Myrddin pupil can also unlock defences with his distribution while he often dances past defenders with his footwork.

Often if a powerful carrier like James, who has pace and power, can add some footwork into the equation it can unsettle defenders, meaning the player can hit a soft shoulder to get over the gainline. But his point of difference is his offloading game.

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There are many big centres on the international scene, which means you need more than pace and power. James likes the tip on pass at the point of contact, while he also employs the long arm offload in a similar manner to All Blacks great Sonny Bill Williams.

What many people don't realise is that James played outside-half until U18s level, which means there's a lot of football in his game, while his kicking out of hand is also a useful string to his bow. One potential area he needs to work on is his decision-making under pressure, which is obviously vital on the international stage but this is something which will hopefully come with his experience.

Looking back at the Six Nations, Wales didn't have enough penetration in midfield but more than anything they lacked ball carriers throughout their side, especially in the pack. On paper they should improve in this area over the summer, especially with Ospreys pair Dewi Lake and Jac Morgan returning from injury along with Scarlets blindside Taine Plumtree.

But a centre partnership of James and Grady could give Wales a carrying game in midfield not seen since the heyday of Roberts and Jonathan Davies. Don't get me wrong, both players still have a lot to learn and are not the finished article by any stretch of the imagination, while Owen Watkin is probably the favourite to start against South Africa, provided the Ospreys don't reach the United Rugby Championship final.

But with nothing to lose Gatland must surely be tempted to try James and Grady in midfield. The potential is enormous and while there is nothing subtle about them they'd be a real handful for opposition defences, while Cardiff utility back Jacob Beetham also needs to be looked at as a 12 option.

If Wales want a bit more subtlety and guile in midfield then Ben Thomas is probably the right option, but if Sam Costelow is the outside-half you probably need to employ a bigger man at inside centre. While Wales lack depth in many positions there are some really exciting options developing in midfield and it would be a shock if James wasn't at the forefront of Gatland's long-term plans.