The England experiment ends with Pivac applauding the Wales ‘project’ player off the pitch after revealing 30 minutes

With Ioan Lloyd gone barely half an hour after Bristol’s convincing Champions Cup victory over the Scarlets, the camera naturally turned to Wales manager Wayne Pivac.

Pivac, in the many times he has been watched over the Parc y Scarlets pitch, has probably rarely given a visiting player much applause.

But in a briefing of observation rather than training, the former Scarlets coach could certainly appreciate what the 20-year-old Lloyd had managed to do in his brief half-hour spell.

Before being sent off with a blow to the ankle, the first 30 minutes had been typical Lloyd.

Product Ysgol Glantaf showed off the usual dazzling and scintillating footwork that had marked him as a star of the future for some time. No wonder Pivac is cheering in the stands.

Whether Lloyd is endowed with a breakthrough talent is not up for debate. Instead, the conversation naturally revolves around where this talent is best served.

During his time with Bristol, he has started in all backline positions other than 9 and 13. A run at inside center on Saturday night was the latest change, having played on the wing for the past few weeks.

Although some have questioned whether he should have made the Wales Six Nations squad, the move probably didn’t help his cause.

During his commentary for BT Sport, former Wales captain Sam Warburton commented on Lloyd’s versatility and when blessing becomes curse.

“James Hook fell victim to that,” Warburton said. “He was too versatile, skilful and talented for his own good.

“You would like to think that sooner or later he will start focusing on one position.

“At the highest level you have to specialize. You can’t keep bouncing back.”

His club coach, Pat Lam, is aware of the chatter. In his mind, Lloyd’s path is pretty clear.

“Everyone is worried that he has to find a job,” he said after the game.

“He’s 20. It’s about building him up as a rugby player, so when he finds the position he wants to play, he’ll be better off for it.

“It’s a project. I played him out of school on the wing. He’s young and there’s a lot of expectation.

“He may have come too early to the Wales squad, but the good thing to take from that is me and Wayne have stayed in good touch as a project with the way we’re working on it.

“But being able to play on the wing because of his skills, playing at the back, understanding at that level. We’re taking him out of that hot seat at 10 and he can learn from Callum.”

It was clear to see how Lloyd went in the 12 shirt on Saturday night.

There were some obvious quality moments, such as working for Bristol’s first two tries, but throughout the opening 30 minutes it was clear the Premiership side were trying to use Lloyd as a second playmaker.

It wasn’t perfect, and the plan is still clearly a work in progress.

For Lam, it’s just about complementing Lloyd as a rugby player before classifying him as a playmaker.

Lam believes his future lies in this mold of a 10-12 playmaker, despite the obvious threat he can pose on the wing. However, this will take time.

“Ten is a pressure position,” he added. “It took time with Callum Sheedy.

“When I came on, Callum was the third or fourth choice and we grew him into the role. The challenge is to grow Ioan into the role.

“The way we play the game, the guys around 10 are very influential. It’s a lot of pressure because you’re running key plays.

“It’s part of his project and it’s what I spoke to Wayne about. He’s delighted with it.

“How many times has a youngster been thrown in 10, struggled, spat out and taken a long time to come back? It’s about making sure he’s ready.

“Wales are lucky to have 10s a minute. They have Dan Biggar, Callum, Rhys Patchell, Rhys Priestland. All those guys who are here for the next three or four years.

“So now is the perfect time to make sure we build Ioan right so he’s not only better for the Bears, but also for Wales.”

As mentioned, there were some eye-catching moments in attack. His pitch for Semi Radradra’s opener was breathtaking. Reacting fastest to Harry Randall’s penalty, he drifted past Rhys Patchell before passing Scott Williams, the Scarlets cross remaining square to deal with the potential threat from Radradra.

It all happened in milliseconds – a testament to Lloyd’s creepy footwork.

For his own trial, it was just about staying alive in support. Even in the build-up, when the ball seemingly continued to dodge Lloyd, he remained ready and was rewarded with the canter test pass.

In truth, Pivac knows all of this. That’s why he capped it at just 19 in 2020.

It was on the other side of the ball that the Welsh coach wanted improvements. Lam believes he will be happy with what he saw.

“One of the areas he’s really improved in is defence. That’s what Wayne asked for on his return. Omar Mouneimne has done a great job on his tackling technique.”

That was evident with a big hit on Scarlets second line Sam Lousi – reading Jonathan Davies’ pass just before pushing the lock away with a classic tackle.



A big hit on Sam Lousi would have attracted the attention of Wayne Pivac

“If you look closely at some of the games he’s played, he’s faced some great players and landed some good shots. When I saw him against (Ngani) Laumape last week, I thought ‘good, he’s ready to enter 12 now’ .

“We played him there in attack, but we kept him in defence. He did a great job.”

It was not only his technique, but his reading of the game in defense.

In the build-up to Ryan Elias’ try, Lloyd stopped a cleverly worked blind move from the Scarlets – identifying the danger and stalking to bring down Liam Williams as the Welsh full-back looked to enter the field towards the try-line .



A carefully crafted move from the Scarlets shatters Bristol’s blind defense – but Lloyd is aware of the danger, stalking through

By the time Williams enters a tackle, Lloyd has gone from defending Channel 12 on the open side to having his feet on the tackle.



As Williams wins the ball, Lloyd has his feet ready to tackle

With a player like Lloyd, it’s always the spectacular moments that grab the attention.

At least with Lam’s project, as he calls it, there should be some real substance beyond style when it comes to stepping into the spotlight.

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