Wales contender to break up the status quo as four-year wait about to be ended

Ellis Bevan of Cardiff
-Credit: (Image: Huw Evans Picture Agency)

It's been a while since Wales capped a new scrum-half.

You'd have to go back to November 2020, when Kieran Hardy was handed a start against Georgia at an empty Parc y Scarlets.

Two years later, Dane Blacker looked to be set for a maiden cap against the same opposition - only to be kept on the bench as the Lelos pulled off a historic victory in Cardiff.

There's yet to be another chance for Blacker. But, nearly four years after the last new cap was handed out, we could be looking at a new scrum-half this summer.

Last week, Cardiff scrum-half Ellis Bevan was named in Wales' 37-man squad for the summer Tests against South Africa and Australia. With Hardy and Gareth Davies also in the squad, there's no guarantee Warren Gatland will give Bevan a shot, of course.

Nor, with Tomos Williams not touring this summer after undergoing ankle surgery earlier this year, is it likely that the monopoly on the Welsh nine jersey will be broken on a long-term basis.

Since Davies made his debut on the summer tour of South Africa a decade ago, coming off the bench in the second Test against South Africa, just three more scrum-halves have been handed debuts.

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Hardy was one, with Williams another. The other one was Aled Davies, set to return to Wales next season with a move to Cardiff.

Of the 121 Tests since Davies first played for Wales 10 years ago, those four new caps - as well as Mike Phillips, Rhys Webb and Lloyd Williams - have been the only players to pull on the jersey.

In Wales' last 50 minutes, just four have seen someone other than Davies, Hardy or Williams start. Bevan could add to that, with his call-up reward for a strong end to the season in Williams' absence at the Arms Park.

Next season, the 24-year-old will look to step into Williams' boots on a permanent basis, as the 53-cap international heads to Gloucester.

The time since Williams went under the knife has been a solid audition. Offering a left-footed kicking option, the Solihull-born scrum-half might not have been the first name that sprung to mind when looking for new options in the position - with Ospreys' starter Reuben Morgan-Williams enjoying a strong campaign - but that doesn't make Bevan any less deserving.

Despite growing up in England, there was never any doubt of Bevan's allegiance - with his dad hailing from Swansea. His choice of rugby heroes only adds credence to where the former Wales U20s international's support lies.

“He moved to the Midlands for work when he was in his mid-20s and he's been there ever since,” Bevan told the Rugby Paper. “He had a massive impact in terms of pushing my Welsh roots. It's always been a Welsh household in terms of the mentality of it.

“Come the Six Nations and autumn internationals, we would be at the Principality Stadium. So it's always been Wales.

“My first recollection of rugby was probably Shane Williams. He was my hero, him side-stepping and that sort of stuff. Then I fully invested in rugby and became a proper fan around 2012, 2013, with the Grand Slam and into the Lions where Wales had such a big impact.

“Growing up and becoming a scrum-half, I looked at Aaron Smith for technical and Mike Phillips for the bigger, physical attributes of a No.9.”

Come the end of this summer, Bevan will be hoping he can establish himself amongst the current crop of scrum-half options on this tour. There's room for change in the position - with Davies 33 and both Hardy and Williams getting closer to 30.

Nearly a decade on from the last cap for one of his heroes in Phillips, this summer could mark another of those rare moments of transition for the scrum-half jersey.

Certainly, Bevan will be hoping that's the case.