What a start to life as a Six Nations Test player for Wasps flanker Thomas Young who excelled in the No. 7 shirt for Wales against Italy. Young was at the forefront of the Welsh challenge in the absence of some key leaders left out of the match day squad, as Gatland rotated his charges with an eye on World Cup selection.
In a back row alongside another Six Nations novice Aaron Wainwright and Cardiff Blues workhorse Josh Navidi, Young produced an excellent all-round performance to maintain Wales’ incredible run of 11 successive games without defeat. His constant omission from international match day squads surprised Wasps supporters as his club form warranted undoubted recognition at Test level. His tireless 80 minute shift at the Stadio Olimpico provided Gatland with plenty of food for thought with three more games left in the tournament.
Filling in for Justin Tipuric was never going to be an easy task but the way in which Young took the fight to the Italians is a testament to his ability and comfort at the level. Italian boss Conor O’Shea singled out Young in his post match press conference, describing him as “exceptional” and many feel he was unlucky to be left out of Man of the Match honors.
On his first Six Nations start, he made a team high total of 14 completed tackles, secured two turnovers and carried for 18 metres - a second highest figure for the Wales forward pack. Having had to bide his time over the last two seasons after his winning his first two caps against Samoa and Tonga in June 2017, Thomas can be encouraged by his efforts in the Italian capital.
Wales are stacked with impressive back-row resources at Gatland’s disposal and Thomas’ performance further strengthens his options despite injuries to front-line players Taulupe Faletau, Dan Lydiate, Aaron Shingler, Ellis Jenkins and James Davies. With sterner fixtures lying in wait, Gatland will have a tough decision to leave the Six Nations rookie out of his match day squad after laying down a marker in Rome.