Sports News

Hadleigh Parkes column: Fatherhood, Wales coach Wayne Pivac and Six Nations hopes

Six Nations: Wales v Italy
Venue: Principality Stadium, Cardiff Date: Saturday, 1 February Kick-off: 1415 GMT
Coverage: Watch live coverage on BBC TV, S4C, BBC iPlayer, Connected TVs and online; listen to match commentaries, shows and podcasts on BBC Radio 5 live, sports extra, BBC Radio Wales, Radio Cymru and BBC Sounds; follow text updates on the BBC Sport website and mobile app.

In his latest BBC Sport column, Wales centre Hadleigh Parkes reflects on his new fatherhood status following the World Cup, his past experiences with new coach Wayne Pivac and preparations for the Six Nations.

From the World Cup in Japan to the Six Nations back in Cardiff.

Things come around pretty quickly in international rugby and we are raring to go for another exciting campaign with Wales.

And things have changed for me and my family since I returned from Japan last November – with fatherhood at the top of that list.

We arrived back in the UK on Monday lunchtime after the third and fourth placed play-off against New Zealand.

We always knew my wife Suzy was pregnant, but we thought we had 14 days grace after I came back.

But on the Wednesday evening after we landed, my daughter was born two weeks early.

There was not a huge amount of relaxation after getting back, but it was amazing. Also, you can’t complain about jet lag to your wife when she is going through labour.

I am full of love and admiration for Suzy and it all went pretty perfectly.

I was fortunate to have a bit of time off after the World Cup.

Some rugby boys sometimes don’t get that when they have their first born, but I was lucky because I have had almost six weeks where I could help out and have that good family time. It has been an awesome experience.

Ruby Eira is doing well at the moment and is now 12 weeks old.

It has changed things and life is busy. You get home and you have this young girl in your arms and she starts smiling at you and giggling away. That is pretty special.

It put a lot of things in perspective. You still work and train hard as you always have and are fully focused, but when you get home, rugby goes to the back of your mind more and you just enjoy having a baby daughter and being a father.

Back to business

Hadleigh Parkes started six 2019 World Cup games and was a replacement in the other match against New Zealand

On the field, we have been getting back into things. I have enjoyed coming back playing for Scarlets and I am honoured to be part of another Six Nations squad.

The World Cup is the pinnacle and something I have been building up to since I made my Test debut in December 2017.

The break players have had is a good time to recharge. It had been a long build-up to the World Cup with warm-up games and I was involved in every match in Japan.

So the body was a bit sore and my hand and shoulder were not the best.

The focus turns quickly and we had a good win against the Barbarians in November, which was a great start for the new coaching team.

I am extremely excited for what should be a good Six Nations with four new head guys in charge.

Wayne’s world

As the new Wales boss Wayne Pivac is looking to build on the great foundations laid by Warren Gatland.

I go back with Wayne further than most. The first time I met him was when I signed for the Auckland ITM squad and I worked with him for about two and a half seasons before he got the Scarlets job over here.

We always got on pretty well and had a good relationship. He got in touch and asked whether I would be keen to come over to Wales.

I was at a time in my life where Suzy and I were keen on travelling. We agreed and it has worked out pretty well.

We have had five and a half years at Scarlets and more than two years with Wales. It is something I would never take for granted and I am humbled by the opportunities I have been given.

I have a lot to thank Wayne for bringing me over, although there are also a lot of other people who have had an influence on my career.

I am stoked for Wayne how he has progressed from initially getting the forwards coach role with Scarlets before being immediately promoted to head coach in 2014 after Simon Easterby became part of the Ireland set-up.

He built a team at the Scarlets who won the Pro12 in 2017 and reached the Pro14 final the following year, plus the Champions Cup semi-final.

For Wayne to get promoted from within, with Stephen Jones and Byron Hayward, recognises the Scarlets’ success and demonstrates there is a progression path there from regional to international rugby.

Wayne Pivac worked with Hadleigh Parkes at Scarlets

Stephen is a Welsh legend for what he did in the jersey and now he has a chance to put a mark on the attack from a coaching perspective. Wayne will ensure Stephen gets that chance because he allows his coaches to do their jobs.

The assistants will run their departments with Wayne having the final say. He watches training intently and might come up to you after and say you have trained well or that there are maybe a couple of things you can change.

Squad selections

There is a good balance between familiar faces and new call-ups and there might be some changes in the Wales midfield.

I felt for Foxy [Jonathan Davies] who has proven what a quality player he is for a long time but is now out injured.

I have been pretty fortunate on the injury front, but I am a little bit older than the other boys in the midfield.

I am excited to be working with these boys. I know Owen Watkin well and he is working his way back from injury and there is Nick Tompkins who has come in from Saracens and looks an exciting player.

Hadleigh Parkes in the 2020 Six Nations training camp with Aaron Wainwright

Owen Williams can cover 10 and 12 and George North has played in the centre before.

It is a good mix. I have been given a bit of stick about being the elder statesman in the backline but Leigh Halfpenny is not far behind and I will remind him of that.

At the other end, you have wing Louis Rees-Zammit, who has come in aged just 18 and impressed everybody straightaway.

One player who is not around is one of my old room-mates, Owen Lane, who has been ruled out with a hamstring injury.

I was set to be rooming with Owen again and I am gutted for the “Lane Train” because he has been in good form for Cardiff Blues and scoring some great tries.

Now I have been put in with Johnny McNicholl, another winger. It’s great for him to be named in the Six Nations squad and I hope he can get an opportunity during the tournament.

While there are some new faces, Wayne has outlined the one goal is to win the tournament again. We’re not talking about defending the title we won last season because that language provides a defensive mentality.

It is up to us go out there and put our mark on this particular Six Nations as this new squad and win the title.

That starts against Italy on Saturday. Everybody is buying into that, but it’s going to be a tough tournament.

There is no shortage of motivation. This is the Six Nations again and everybody knows just how special it is.

For the latest Welsh rugby union news follow @BBCScrumV