Scott Baldwin has heaped praise on Rhys Carre after the giant Cardiff prop produced a startling performance in his team’s 42-14 United Rugby Championship win over Zebre.
Despite being in Wayne Pivac’s Wales squad, Carre didn’t play a single minute for Wales during the Six Nations, with Gareth Thomas and Wyn Jones sharing the loose-head duties. But the 6ft 3in, 20st 4lb Cardiff player has taken his game to a different level of late, with powerful scrummaging, strong carrying and hard work in defence.
Against Zebre, he resembled a runaway bull with its socks rolled down as he made 38 metres from nine runs, with two line-busts and four defenders beaten. He also scrummaged well, made 10 tackles without missing and achieved a turnover.
For Baldwin, Carre can be used by Cardiff in the same way Leicester and England use Ellis Genge, the loose-head who made an eye-popping 274 metres with ball in hand during the Six Nations, 96 metres more than any other prop, and 44 tackles, stats which many yesteryear front-rowers would justifiably marvel at.
“He put another statement down,” said Baldwin, who was on punditry duty for BBC Wales’ Scrum V Live coverage of the Cardiff v Zebre game (you can read about Cardiff’s win over Zebre here ).
“I really think Cardiff can use him similar to how Leicester and England use Ellis Genge, as one of their main ball-carriers. He’s a big, physical man and he’s starting to build a bit of momentum.
“He’s putting his name up for the summer tour to South Africa, and at the moment he has an all-court game. He’s fighting through the contact, he has the ability to offload, he’ll carry hard if he needs to.”
Carre made Wales’ 2019 World Cup squad as a bolter, but he justified his selection. Indeed, so much promise did he show at the tournament in Japan that Stuart Barnes tipped him to make the Lions Test side in South Africa in 2021.
It didn’t happen as the big man found it hard to kick on amid questions over his scrummaging. But he acquitted himself well in that area against fellow Wales prop Tomas Francis last point and Baldwin pointed to examples of the youngster applying pressure on the Zebre set-piece.
It was round the field, though, where he truly caught the eye. “What impressed me was his work-rate on both sides of the ball,” said the 34-cap Ospreys man, who filled the front-line hooking role for Wales at the 2015 World Cup.
“He had massive moments in the game. There was a great turnover showing his ability on both sides of the ball. He has the triple threat at the minute — probably not the run, kick, pass; he has the run, scrum, tackle. Yeah, he had a fantastic game.”
With Wyn Jones not having played for a month because of injury, Pivac would have been looking for loose-heads to put their hands up ahead of selection for Wales’ three-Test tour of South Africa. Ospreys pair Gareth Thomas and Nicky Smith are doing so, but so is the young powerhouse at Cardiff.