Aaron Wainwright talks taches, tries and titanic comebacks ahead of Wales’ semi-final

Charlie Talbot-Smith
23 October 2019

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Aaron Wainwright’s stunning showing for Wales on Sunday will probably be best remembered for Sebastien Vahaamahina’s elbow to the jaw.

But we should not forget the amount of elbow grease that it took from the Dragons flanker in his man of the match showing to get his side over the line.

The flanker scored a stunning solo try in the first half, played the full 80 minutes for the first time in a big game this tournament after Josh Navidi limped off early, copped Vahaamahina’s elbow in what proved to be the pivotal passage of play after half time, and still had enough energy to help Ross Moriarty over the line for the crucial late score.

“It was a brutal game and very, very tight. We’re pleased to come away with the win, but there is lots to reflect on,” said Wainwright, who also made 14 tackles in the 20-19 win.

“We’ve been building for the last 18 months and the belief has always been there. Coming in at half time behind, we came out with belief we could still get the job done.

“We kept pressuring them and we knew we had to get points on the board first and we did that. We built from there and we’re really glad to get the job done. We’re into next week now.

“It shows we can grit it out and get the job done even if it’s not the prettiest. That’s a positive we can take out of today, but hopefully we won’t have to do that next week and we can play some pretty rugby.”

This time last year, Wainwright have never started a Test for his country.

But the Dragons flanker’s meteoric rise over the last 12 months has been so impressive that he has very quickly established himself as one of Warren Gatland’s go-to men out here in the Far East.

“I didn’t think I’d be here a couple of years ago so it’s a massive achievement for me and the team,” he admitted.

“We’ve been building for a couple of years now and now we have eyes on the semi-final and hopefully the final and hopefully we can come away with the trophy.

“It wasn’t the best performance. It’s exciting to see what we will be able to achieve when we do perform at our best. That’s something that will be exciting to see and hopefully we can perform at our best next week.”

Wainwright has made his name so far in his young career for his hard-hitting style in the Welsh back row.

But his carrying is also becoming a proper weapon, his slaloming run down the right wing in the second half was worthy of a three-quarter.

But it will be the turn of pace for the solo stunner in the first half that lives longer in the memory, that and the slightly awkward looking stag antler celebration!

He added: “The ball popped up and I can’t really remember what happened. I just remember sprinting towards the line and then doing an awkward dive to the floor. I just wanted to make sure I dotted it down.

“I’ve got a sevens team back home called the stags – that’s what the celebration was for. The boys who play for Whiteheads (Wainwright’s boyhood club just outside Newport and whose nickname is the stags) play for that sevens team too.”

Throw in the serious moustache that Wainwright is rocking out here in Japan, and it is clear that the 22-year-old is not a man to forget his roots.

He added: “Yes, so all my mates went away to Prague on a boys holiday and they said they were all going to grow moustaches.

“They said if I grew one too they were going to crop me into the photo so I didn’t feel like I’m missing out! I certainly don’t feel like I’m missing out now I’m here!

“We’re 160 minutes away from changing the rest of our lives and if we can get to the final it will be pretty special.

“We want to create a legacy and that’s the message (Alun Wyn Jones) has been driving since the start of the Six Nations.

“In our huddle he was saying how much it will mean to have something at the end of it and to make sure we come away with something.”

With Navidi’s hamstring forcing him off before half time and now ruled out for the tournament Wainwright looks nailed on for a starting spot in a semi-final against South Africa.

Gatland has said he will call up a replacement in Navidi’s place, but not a back row.

Recovery for Wainwright will be key, particularly around the jaw area! After all, the semi-final would be the youngster’s 15th Test outing of this calendar year.

“I’ll probably get some recovery done and get my head down,” he continued. “There is no celebration as yet as Alun Wyn said. We haven’t got the job done. The celebrations will come after we come away with the trophy.

“The jaw is fine at the moment. Obviously it wasn’t that nice at the time and as I said I’m glad the TMO pulled it back. It’s nothing long lasting and I should be fine.”


Cardiff City Stadium will play host to the 2020 Guinness PRO14 Final on June 20 as one of the most exciting days in the club rugby calendar comes to Wales!

General sale tickets are available from http://bit.ly/PRO14Cardiff2020 and prices start at just £13 for concessions and £26 for adults (subject to booking fees), that’s a 15% early bird discount. Family ticket (2 adults / 2 children) prices begin at £64 and fans are encouraged to buy early to get the best value tickets.

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