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Dewi Lake Backed to Prove He Can Again Be Wales’ Number One No.2 on Judgement Day

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By Graham Thomas

Former Lions and Wales hooker Richard Hibbard insists the Wales No.2 shirt will be up for grabs when some of the front row contenders battle it out on Judgement Day this weekend.

An ankle injury for the Dragons’ Elliot Dee has ruled him out of a direct head-to-head against the Scarlets’ Ryan Elias, but the Ospreys’ Dewi Lake is on the comeback trail and he will face off against Cardiff’s in-form Liam Belcher.

That means, even without Dee – who is replaced by youngster Brodie Coghlan – three of the four hookers in action will have ambitions to make Warren Gatland’s squad when the Wales coach names his group for the summer tour next week.

“The thing about the Wales number two shirt at the moment is that no-one owns it outright,” says Hibbard.

“I think this weekend is a great opportunity for someone to put themself at the front of that line.

“Wales did not have a great Six Nations, to say the least. But for Warren Gatland, this is already now a new era and that goes for the hooker position where there are a few contenders with claims to stake.”

With Lake having suffered an injury on the eve of the Six Nations, Dee and Elias shared the hooking spot through the tournament with Dee starting four matches and Elias, one.

At last year’s World Cup, however, Lake was the first choice and the former Wales co-captain is being backed by Hibbard to reclaim his previous status in the pecking order.

“It’s a shame for Dewi that he has had these injuries. Every time you think he’s going to crack on and make that place his own, he seems to pick up an injury,” adds the former Ospreys, Gloucester and Dragons star.

“I rate Dewi very highly. To be fair to Elliot, he has really taken his chance well. He is great at getting around the park and Gats really rates his throwing accuracy.

“I think Ryan Elias is also a very good player, but I don’t think he’s really pushed on yet as we thought he might.

“I think there is another gear there for Ryan that he hasn’t quite found yet on the international stage. I don’t know whether that’s a confidence thing, but I think he’s played enough at Test level now that we should be seeing him push on.

“If he does take that next step, then he’s also got the ability to make that shirt his own.

“The good thing for Gatland is that hooker is one of the few positions in the team where we seem to have a bit of depth. Behind Lake at the Ospreys is Sam Parry, who I would rate as another international contender.”

Aside from the individual shoot-outs for the hooker’s spot, Hibbard is hopeful Saturday’s two matches can go some way to lifting some of the gloom hanging over the game in Wales after a difficult season for all four Welsh regions.

“Everyone is Welsh rugby seems defeated at the moment and that’s not very healthy,” adds Hibbard who has also taken on a new role as chief executive of Wales Rugby League.

“We need some fresh thinking, some optimism and some energy – some kind of brand disruptor-feeling to seize the situation and shake things up.”

Welsh bookmakers DragonBet are backing Lake and the Ospreys to come out on top against Cardiff and Belcher.

They are also tipping Elias and his Scarlets teammates to overcome Coghlan and the Dragons.

The Scarlets are 2/5 to beat the Dragons, who are 2/1. The Ospreys are 4/9 to win against Cardiff, who are 15/8.

They are also offering Judgement Day specials on the teams from the west to overcome their rivals from the east.

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