The Wales bolters fighting for Warren Gatland's attention

James has enjoyed a breakthrough season with the Scarlets
James has enjoyed a breakthrough season with the Scarlets -Credit:Huw Evans Agency

After putting a bruising Six Nations campaign behind them, Warren Gatland and Wales have turned their attention to the challenges that await them this summer.

Fresh from picking up the wooden spoon, Gatland must now prepare his side for a clash with world champions South Africa before a two-Test tour of Australia and a Friday night showdown with the Queensland Reds in Brisbane.

Wales will welcome back a host of players who missed out on selection for the Six Nations, with the likes of Jac Morgan, Dewi Lake, Taine Plumtree and Christ Tshiunza set to return from injury this summer.

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READ MORE: The likely new Wales squad Warren Gatland will announce a month today

After such a dismal tournament, however, ending a six-game losing streak is of paramount important. At the same time, we're now in a new World Cup cycle and Gatland will have one eye on 2027 when selecting his squad and so he may be tempted to try something different for the Springboks and Wallabies encounters.

Of course, there were six uncapped players involved in his Six Nations squad and with many more promising young players who performing consistently well for their clubs all season, there's a chance he could introduce a few more new faces to the international fold. Here's our breakdown on some of the emerging stars who could force their way into the coach's plans this summer.

Reuben Morgan-Williams

There has been little change when it comes to the Welsh number nine jersey over the last decade, with just four different scrum-halves - Gareth Davies, Tomos Williams, Kieran Hardy and the now-ineligible Aled Davies - capped in that time.

Davies has been a great servant to Wales over the years but, at 33, is highly unlikely to be in Gatland's plans for 2027, while Williams is set to miss this summer's tour with an ankle ligament injury. So while Hardy is a reliable player, there is room for someone new to make their mark, and the form scrum-half in Wales this season has been Morgan-Williams.

Under the guidance of Toby Booth, the 26-year-old has shown steady improvement in recent seasons and has produced some outstanding performances so far this campaign. A reliable box-kicker and a steady head, he has six tries to his name and has been integral to his side's success this season.

Of course, there is the question of whether he can make that jump up to international level, but there are few more qualified to make that decision than Gatland's assistant and former scrum-half Rob Howley.

Eddie James

The young Scarlets centre has enjoyed a breakthrough season in Llanelli, proving to be one of the shining lights in what has been a largely miserable campaign for Dwayne Peel's side.

21-year-old James is a very good footballer with an excellent offloading game, but crucially at 6ft 3ins and 103kg, packs enough explosive power to get over the gainline. With George North retiring, Wales need that sort of presence in midfield, while the Scarlets man has also received the backing of Jamie Roberts, with whom he shares those physical attributes.

Obviously, there are a fair few centres for Gatland to consider, from Nick Tompkins, Owen Watkin and Max Llewellyn to Ben Thomas and Keiran Williams. But with an eye to the future, the Wales boss could well opt to bring James on board this summer.

Rhys Litterick

The tight-head prop has impressed in his first season with Cardiff after moving to Arms Park from Harlequins, being rewarded with a new long-term contract last month.

Highly-rated by Wales legend Adam Jones, who coached him at Quins, the 25-year-old is still a work in progress, given he was playing semi-pro rugby while working as a landscaper just a few years ago. That said, his scrummaging and general work rate around the park is good, while he is also a decent ball carrier.

Litterick also qualifies for Scotland and considering Gregor Townsend could well swoop for him, coupled with how thin on the ground Wales are at tighthead, Gatland could do worse than selecting the prop for the summer tour.

Josh Hathaway

The 20-year-old has made headlines in recent weeks thanks to his impressive attacking performances for Gloucester, scoring an individual wonder try before bagging a hat-trick against Saracens.

A lively wing, who can also play at full-back, Hathaway has a devastating turn of pace, a fine kicking game and a strong finishing prowess, with his coach George Skivington claiming that he has "all the credentials" to become a world-class player. He has been caught out defensively at times, however, and still has plenty of room for improvement, but a Wales call-up would be as much about securing a potential future star as it is about what he can offer right now.

While he was born and raised in Aberystwyth, Hathaway is also English-qualified and has represented both Wales and England at U20s level, with a new tug-of-war between the two nations seemingly losing. After the Feyi-Waboso saga, Wales cannot afford to lose another player with a high ceiling - or in Skivington's words: 'rock star potential' - to England and Gatland could avoid such a battle by calling him up sooner rather than later.

Louie Hennessey

One of the most exciting young Welsh players around, 20-year-old Hennessey has all the physical traits to make an impact at Test level, standing at 6ft 3ins and weighing in at 16st 4lbs.

But there is far more to this centre's game than purely power, with his pace and supreme offloading ability catching the eye of All Blacks great Sonny Bill Williams, while he is an asset in defence too.

The Bath man shone for Wales at U20 levels and has been tipped to make that step up to the senior squad before too long. With Joe Roberts out injured, Gatland may take a punt and decide that the time is now.