Tommy Reffell has been a shining light for Wales during difficult times, according to sports journalist Gerard Meagher.
When Steve Borthwick became the head coach of England, his two sons, Hunter and Chase, encouraged him to choose Tommy Reffell, their beloved player from Leicester, for the national team. Although the two children may not have been fully aware of the criteria for international selection – as Reffell had made his debut for Wales in the summer of 2022 – it is clear that they recognize a talented player when they see one.
For the second consecutive week, Reffell delivered an impressive display while wearing the No. 7 jersey for Wales. Despite only playing in his 15th Test match, he has become an essential member of Warren Gatland’s inexperienced team. Although his team ultimately lost once again, unable to maintain consistency throughout the entire match, this should not diminish Reffell’s exceptional performance. While Gatland’s team may have faltered in the second half, Reffell remained strong.
Reffell’s signature turnover provided relief for Wales under the early pressure near their own tryline, following Freddie Steward’s initial break that sparked excitement among the Twickenham crowd. If England had managed to score at that moment, the game may have been easier for the home team. However, Reffell expertly seized the ball, leading to a crucial penalty for Wales.
He also made a lovely pass to Tomos Williams, setting up Alex Mann’s try and giving Wales a nine-point advantage at halftime. Just before that, he had quickly grabbed the ball and started a play that led to Mann’s try. In the middle of those two important plays, he kept moving and supporting his team, giving them the confidence that they could win their first Six Nations game at Twickenham in 12 years. He ended the game with the most tackles at 14 and his performance on the global stage only added to his reputation.
In the first half, Wales had a strong back row with Mann and Wainwright, who signed his first professional contract with Cardiff in January. However, in the second half, Wales was unable to maintain their level of play and England took control. Despite this, Reffell continued to play with determination.
In the second half, he aggressively tackled George Ford and prevented a renewed Ellis Genge from scoring under the posts. However, he was unable to stop Fraser Dingwall from scoring in the left corner, bringing England within one point. By this point, Wales was fatigued. If Rio Dyer had successfully caught Josh Adams’s pass back inside on the right, after a strong run from the notable Cameron Winnett, the outcome may have been different.
In the 71st minute, England gained the advantage after Ford scored a penalty. Grady received a yellow card for intentionally knocking the ball, which greatly diminished Wales’ chances of regaining control. As the game approached its end with only four minutes left, England was on the brink of securing the win with a try. However, Reffell managed to make another turnover, giving Wales a small chance of causing an upset.
Gatland stated that one of the areas they have been working on with him is utilizing his defensive skills and getting him more involved in ball handling and running to enhance his overall game. They were pleased with his performance last week and are seeing continued improvement. Gatland expressed his joy for the player and believes this development will elevate his game to the next level. He also commended his continuous effort and endurance throughout the entire game.
England cannot deny that they were aware of Reffell’s presence, but his exceptional performance as an openside flanker made it difficult for them to contain him. Richard Wigglesworth, the England attack coach who took over as director of rugby at Leicester, had already identified Reffell as a threat earlier in the week after witnessing his impressive display in the one-point loss to Scotland. However, while being aware of his abilities is one thing, successfully stopping him is another challenge altogether. Although Reffell has struggled to secure a regular spot as a No 7 in his international career so far, his performance in this game suggests that England can expect to see much more of him in the future.