Wales head coach Wayne Pivac has named his matchday squad for Saturday’s international against South Africa in Pretoria, with Leicester Tigers flanker Tommy Reffell set to make his debut after being included in the starting XV.
Reffell, who is a former Wales U18 and U20 captain, will start on the openside and packs down alongside the experienced Dan Lydiate (blindside flank) and Taulupe Faletau (number eight) in the back-row.
Elsewhere in the forwards, Gareth Thomas and Dillon Lewis are the starting props and will run out in the front-row alongside Ryan Elias (hooker) while Will Rowlands and Adam Beard are picked to start in the second-row.
George North returns
Meanwhile, George North is set to make his first appearance for his country since the 2021 Six Nations after being named to start in the midfield with Nick Tompkins. North spent 12 months on the sidelines due to a serious knee injury.
Experienced fly-half Dan Biggar will captain the side and is joined in the half-backs by Kieran Hardy while Liam Williams gets the nod at full-back with Louis Rees-Zammit and Josh Adams named on the wings.
Meanwhile, Rhys Carre is selected in a Wales matchday squad for the first time in 2022 and will be part of the front-row cover along with fellow prop Tomas Francis and hooker Dewi Lake, while veteran lock Alun Wyn Jones and Josh Navidi are the other forward replacements.
Tomos Williams, Gareth Anscombe and Owen Watkin are also in Wales’ matchday 23 as the backline replacements.
Pivac said: “Tommy Reffell is a player we’ve been watching for some time now. He’s been in very good form with Leicester Tigers and he’s match fit – which is important with our squad not having played a lot of rugby recently. We think it’s the right time for him and what a great debut to have at Loftus Versfeld.
“Dan Lydiate and George North return for Wales. We’re very pleased they’re back after long layoffs. They’ve both worked very hard and were playing well at the time of their injuries, so it was disappointing for them to be out for so long. But to have them back, and the experience they bring, it’s great for the group.
“South Africa are world champions. We’ve played them recently in the autumn but we don’t think there will be too much change. They’ve got a very big side, a six-two split on the bench. We don’t expect much change from the way they played against us previously and it’s been very effective for them. We’re expecting a very tough game.”
Loftus Versfeld is sold-out for this fixture and it will be the first time that the Springboks will play in front of a capacity crowd on home soil since their 2019 Rugby World Cup triumph.
Ready for the challenge
Speaking about that prospect, Pivac said: “This is our first tour away as a group so it’s fantastic for us. The guys have had a good week’s build up, have really enjoyed each other’s company and just being away in different surroundings. It’s going to be a great atmosphere Saturday, a great challenge and one we’re looking forward to.”
Wales’ players will wear black armbands on Saturday to honour of former Wales fly-half Phil Bennett, who passed away earlier this month.
Wales: 15 Liam Williams, 14 Louis Rees-Zammit, 13 George North, 12 Nick Tompkins, 11 Josh Adams, 10 Dan Biggar (c), 9 Kieran Hardy, 8 Taulupe Faletau, 7 Tommy Reffell, 6 Dan Lydiate, 5 Adam Beard, 4 Will Rowlands, 3 Dillon Lewis, 2 Ryan Elias, 1 Gareth Thomas
Replacements: 16 Dewi Lake, 17 Rhys Carre, 18 Tomas Francis, 19 Alun Wyn Jones, 20 Josh Navidi, 21 Tomos Williams, 22 Gareth Anscombe, 23 Owen Watkin
Date: Saturday, July 2
Venue: Loftus Versfeld, Pretoria
Kick-off: 17:05 local (16:05 BST, 15:05 GMT)
Referee: Nika Amashukeli (Georgia)
Assistant Referees: Angus Gardner (Australia), Andrea Piardi (Italy)
TMO: Joy Neville (IRFU)
South Africa v Wales series preview
Planet Rugby previews the upcoming series between the Springboks and Wales in South Africa.