Super 15 Star Gareth Anscombe Tops Warren Gatland’s World Cup Shopping List as Cardiff Blues Prepare a Bid
With Rhys Priestland, Dan Biggar and James Hook all struggling to nail down Wales’ prized number 10 jersey, a shock contender from New Zealand has entered the frame in time for next year’s World Cup.
Warren Gatland’s search for a star playmaker to orchestrate Wales’ World Cup challenge has turned to New Zealand.
And not only has Wales coach Gatland put Super 15 star Gareth Anscombe top of his shopping list but that Cardiff Blues are set to table a bid to lure the Welsh-qualified back to the Arms Park.
Wales have been unable to settle on a tactical controller at outside-half with Rhys Priestland, Dan Biggar and James Hook all failing to nail down the jersey and emerging Leicester Tigers talent Owen Williams yet to prove himself at Test level.
Gatland is anxious to solve the problem 17 months out from the 2015 World Cup and Anscombe – who played a starring role in the Chiefs lifting last year’s Super Rugby title by piling up 166 points in the tournament – could fit the bill as he qualifies for Wales through his mother Tracey.
The 22-year-old is the son of Ulster coach Mark Anscombe and was New Zealand’s guiding light at No 10 three years ago when the Kiwis Under-20 side inflicted a record 92-0 humiliation on Wales on the way to lifting the Junior World Championship in Italy.
But Anscombe is not tied to New Zealand because the ‘Baby Blacks’ aren’t designated as the country’s second-string team.
Anscombe’s contract with back-to-back Super 15 champions Chiefs, who are based in Gatland’s home city of Hamilton, is up at the end of this domestic season in New Zealand.
The Chiefs are currently top of the New Zealand Conference, level with Australian leaders Brumbies and six points behind South African pace-setters Sharks in the overall standings.
Anscombe is a reliable kicker and dangerous runner and wore the No 10 shirt in the absence of Dan Carter’s All Blacks deputy Aaron Cruden last weekend, but he has been used extensively at full-back by the Chiefs.
He has an ambition to play for the All Blacks but faces a dilemma over his future because he knows he’s fifth or sixth in the pecking order for the coveted No 10 jersey. And there’s strong competition at full-back from the likes of Israel Dagg and Mils Muliaina, who has returned to New Zealand after a stint playing club rugby in Japan.
The Blues are also likely to have a New Zealander at their coaching helm next season with Mark Hammett close to agreeing a deal.
The former All Blacks hooker’s contract with the Wellington-based Hurricanes, who are eighth in the Super Rugby table, is up at the end of the campaign and he has revealed he has not sought an extension.
Original story on Wales Online.