Wales selection beckons for Parkes

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    30 Nov 2017     Getty Images

That is shaping as the prize for former Manawatu, Blues and Hurricanes midfield utility Hadleigh Parkes.

If achieved it will complete a long road from Hunterville on State Highway One to Millennium Stadium in Cardiff to play the Springboks for the 30-year-old.

Parkes joined the Scarlets, based in Llanelli, when his former Auckland coach Wayne Pivac assessed his interest in joining him at the club.

"Wayne got in touch with me and asked if I would be interested in coming and I said I would be very interested in having a crack over here," Parkes told the Western Mail.

At a press conference soon after his arrival, he told locals he was a player who liked to carry the ball hard, who tried to do the basics well on the basis that if he did those well everything else would take care of itself.

Because he was a player who didn't have the international commitments that players from other countries in the side had, he was available to play all year round and soon proved his durability while also showing leadership ability when the likes of Ken Owens, John Barclay or Scott Williams were on Test duty.

In the 2015-16 season Parkes won the Scarlets coaches' and fans' player of the year award after playing every minute of the PRO14 league. The following season he featured in every game again, in spite of the return to the side of British & Irish Lion Jonathan Davies from France.

Ironically, it was the All Blacks who boosted his chance of attracting Welsh selection interest. He helped the All Blacks in their training during their northern tour last season because they had a number of midfield injuries. Then, when his initial Scarlets contract was up he was approached by the Cardiff Blues, however Scarlets retained him and it was at that stage the prospect of a future with Wales was discussed.

Parkes' looming eligibility was realised by Wales coach Warren Gatland who included him in his squad for the November Tests and he had been a big contributor at training.

Wales' kicking coach Neil Jenkins said Parkes had been a great addition to the squad.

"He's got quite a few strengths. He carries well, he's defensively very good. The Scarlets have kept ball in hand well and put people through holes, he's got that subtlety to his game.

"The way we're trying to play, he's a big bonus for us. I think he's a 12 [second five-eighths] at this moment, but I've no doubt he could play 13 [centre] if we need him," he said.