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Welsh Rugby

George North

Wales and Northampton’s George North

George North has insisted he is not planning to return to regional rugby any time soon but backed the new dual-contract system which has attracted Dan Lydiate to return from France.

The Northampton wing hailed Welsh union and regional bosses for finally agreeing a “feasible option” that will boost chances of top stars remaining in the domestic game.

Lydiate capitalised on the new contracts by return from Racing Metro to the Ospreys and will make his debut against Ulster this Saturday.

North believes more top stars could follow suit but stressed his current situation at Northampton suits him “down to the ground”.

The Saints release North for all his Wales commitments, a situation he admits allows him to gain the best of both worlds.

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Rugby World Cup 2015 - EnglandThe Wales squad will face temperatures ranging from 42 degrees to minus 150 degrees, will sleep in normobaric hypoxic chambers and will train in surroundings ranging from the deserts of Qatar to the peaks of the Swiss Alps as part of their gruelling preparation for next year’s Rugby World Cup.

Wales’ full schedule for 2015 will see Warren Gatland’s squad undergo intensive training camps in Switzerland, Qatar and Poland as well as face home and away ties against Ireland before concluding their preparations against Italy at the Millennium Stadium.

The rigorous schedule has left no stone unturned in order to ensure Wales arrive at the world’s showpiece tournament in peak condition with leading facilities at home in Wales and across the world utilized.

The programme is the culmination of months of research and planning and WRU head of physical performance, Adam Beard, who also designed the 2011 schedule, is delighted to formally announce the squad’s plans.

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Jack Payne

Jack Payne

Former Wales and Llanelli flyhalf Phil Bennett has questioned Scarlets’ move for Welsh-qualified flanker Jack Payne from Queensland Reds in Australia.

Payne, 20, has arrived in Wales, but any move cannot be made official until passport issues have been resolved.

Scarlets president Bennett would prefer to see local players at Scarlets, but admitted importing Welsh-qualified players from abroad could help Wales.

“There’s a lot of mixed feeling from Llanelli,” he said.  “We’re kind of old fashioned here. People still go back to the great Llanelli days . . .  they all want to be Welsh, Welsh-speaking if they had their way,” joked 66-year-old Bennett.

“But let’s be honest, look at the Australians, the All Blacks and how they’ve milked the situation of getting players from Fiji, Samoa and different places. You’ve got to get and live with the very best in the world.”

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SpringboksThe South African Rugby Union received handy compensation from the Welsh Rugby Union for agreeing to play last weekend’s Test in Cardiff.

The Test at Millennium Stadium fell outside World Rugby’s international window, but was played after both rugby union’s agreed to square off.

According to reports, SARU received £750 000 (about R 13 Million) from the WRU for the Test.

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South Africa suffered a big blow when Springbok captain Jean de Villiers was injured during their 12-6 defeat to Wales at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff on Saturday.

De Villiers was forced to leave the field in the 58th minute after twisting his left knee and dislocating his knee cap. The dislocation was reduced on the field and he was sent for scans shortly after the match.

“The scans revealed significant ligament damage to the inside of his knee and the supporting muscles,” said Springbok team doctor Craig Roberts.

“Jean will return to South Africa and see an orthopaedic specialist in Cape Town early in the week. He has had previous surgery on this knee and the further management of the injury is dependent upon the specialist’s recommendations.”

Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer said losing De Villiers was a massive setback as the team were just beginning to build momentum in a tough encounter against Wales. The home team’s points came via four Leigh Halfpenny penalty goals, while Pat Lambie responded with two penalty goals for the visitors.

“It was a massively disappointing way to end the tour and our season, as we always strive to make our country proud,” said Meyer.

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Jean de Villiers

Jean de Villiers

South Africa need no extra motivation to raise themselves for Saturday’s season-ending Test match against Wales after being pushed hard by the Welsh in their last match earlier this year.

The South Africans led 17-0 and 30-17 early in the clash in Nelspruit in June before the Welsh staged a dramatic comeback, only to fall short by a solitary point, as the Springboks hung on for a 31-30 victory.

That win stretched the Springboks’ formidable record over Wales to just one loss (1999) and one draw (1970) in 29 matches between the two countries.

“It’s pretty easy to motivate yourself. It’s the last one, you can put all your effort into it, not that you don’t in any other week of the year.

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Jamie Roberts

Jamie Roberts

Wales centre Jamie Roberts insisted he was ready for more of the same against South Africa on Saturday, despite being unable to run for four days after his exploits against the New Zealand last week.

Roberts, a qualified doctor currently taking a medical sabbatical playing for Racing-Metro in the French Top 14 league, admitted that he did not dwell too long on the pain and suffering he caused his own body.

“It’s taken me about four or five days to recover from last weekend,” Roberts said of the battering he took in the 34-16 loss to New Zealand.

“It was car-crash stuff last weekend.

“I take anti-inflammatory medication before most games now just to reduce swelling in knees and ankles and so forth.

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Warren Gatland

Warren Gatland

Wales coach Warren Gatland has denied he was under extra pressure as his team sought an elusive win over a Southern Hemisphere side when they clash with South Africa on Saturday.

Gatland’s record against the SANZAR sides of Australia, New Zealand and the Springboks since taking charge in 2007 does not make for pleasant reading: played 27, won one, lost 26.

That solitary win was against the Wallabies, 21-18, back in 2008, but Gatland on Thursday played down reports in the media that he was under extra pressure, 10 months away from the World Cup in England.

After opening their November campaign with a 28-33 defeat by Australia, an experimental Wales side scraped past Fiji 17-13 before rebounding against New Zealand, leading after 69 minutes before leaking three late tries to go down 16-34.

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WalesWales have made three changes to their side to face South Africa on Saturday, with Gethin Jenkins, Scott Baldwin and Liam Williams all coming into the starting fifteen.

Jenkins and Baldwin will link up with Samson Lee to form the same frontrow that started the clash against Fiji a fortnight ago.

The rest of the pack remains unchanged from last weekend’s game against the world champions New Zealand, with Jake Ball partnering Alun Wyn Jones in the second row and Dan Lydiate and Taulupe Faletau lining up alongside captain Sam Warburton.

Ospreys halfbacks Rhys Webb and Dan Biggar continue their partnership as do the record breaking centre duo of Jamie Roberts and Jonathan Davies.

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Heyneke Meyer & Jean de Villiers

Heyneke Meyer & Jean de Villiers

Tendai Mtawarira, Bismarck du Plessis, Willie le Roux, Cornal Hendricks and Lwazi Mvovo are back in the Springbok starting line-up for Saturday’s Test against Wales at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff.

The changes in the back three were required because Johan Goosen, Bryan Habana and JP Pietersen, who started in last weekend’s victory over Italy in Padova, are not available this week. The two changes to the front row are rotational.

Adriaan Strauss, who started at hooker in the victories over England and Italy, moves to the bench, where he will be joined by Trevor Nyakane and Damian de Allende in the only other changes to the match-23.

“This tour has been a good test of our depth and we’re looking forward to see what the team can do on Saturday,” said Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer.

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Shaun Edwards

Shaun Edwards

Welsh defensive coach Shaun Edwards has bad memories of what Willie le Roux did to them in June and is wary of the Springboks’ threats.

South Africa managed two victories over the Welsh back in June, with a tight one-point win in Nelspruit proving to be a heartbreaking one for Wales.

Springbok fullback Willie le Roux was instrumental as an attacking threat in both those games and was seen to terrorize the Welsh defence.

For Edwards, a watchful eye will be kept on Le Roux, but he is not fooling himself into believing that the wylie fullback will be the only threat.

“They have got intelligent players, they’ve got a constructive kicking game as well,” the coach said.

They’ve got an outstanding fullback in Willie le Roux, who was the main torturer for us throughout the June Tests.

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WalesWales will be able to call on their French-based stars for Saturday’s Test against the Springboks at Millennium Stadium in Cardiff.

The match falls outside of World Rugby’s Test window, which means clubs are not obliged to release their overseas-based players for internationals.

For this reason, the Springboks will not be able to call on the likes of Bryan Habana (Toulon, France) JP Pietersen (Panasonic Wild Knights, Japan), Schalk Burger (Suntory Sungoliath, Japan), Johan Goosen (Racing Metro, France), Jano Vermaak (Toulouse, France), Gurthro Steenkamp (Toulouse, France) and Morne Steyn (Stade Francais, France).

However, it appears Wales will be able to call on some key overseas players.

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Warren Gatland

Warren Gatland

Wales coach Warren Gatland’s record against the Southern Hemisphere giants of Australia, New Zealand and South Africa now stands at played 27, won one and lost 26 after a 16-34 defeat at the hands of the All Blacks.

That solitary win was against the Wallabies, 21-18, back in 2008, but Gatland insisted that his team did not lack self-belief against the SANZAR nations, praising New Zealand’s kicking game in a brutally entertaining match in Cardiff.

“It’s not a matter of belief. It’s sometimes just getting across the line and doing it, and the first time you do that, it’s easier the next time,” said Gatland.

“That’s a big thing for us, we get over that line and that’s what will create that belief and that composure to finish a game off.”

Gatland, himself a Kiwi who took charge of Wales after the 2007 World Cup, added of the “nearly-men” tag.

“It’s disappointing. You’ve got to keep working hard to try to rectify that in terms of critical moments when we’ve come under a bit of pressure.

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Beauden Barrett

Beauden Barrett

New Zealand take on Wales at Cardiff’s Millennium Stadium on Saturday with no Dan Carter on the teamsheet, young gun Beauden Barrett entrusted to drive the All Blacks around the park.

Barrett has spent most of the last two weeks simulating English and Scottish attackers as he missed out on selection for the 24-16 victory over the latter behind Carter and Colin Slade, while he came on for Aaron Cruden for the last quarter in the 24-21 win at Twickenham.

But coach Steve Hansen has had no qualms about throwing the 23-year-old Hurricanes playmaker a chance for a rare start in a match-up in which Wales’ last victory came way back in 1953.

“We’ve got total belief in him though, otherwise we wouldn’t have put him in there,” Hansen said, adding that a fly-half’s role was simple.

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Richie McCaw

Richie McCaw

Keven Mealamu

Keven Mealamu

Richie McCaw will become the first player to captain the All Blacks in 100 Tests when he leads New Zealand against Wales on Saturday in his 137th Test.

The 33-year-old flank was named to captain the All Blacks for the match in Cardiff, which could provide some insight into head coach Steve Hansen’s view of his strongest lineup, a year from the next World Cup.

It will be a fitting occasion, as McCaw captained the All Blacks for the first time against the Welsh exactly 10 years ago today, on 20 November 2004, in his 25th Test. McCaw has won 89 of his 99 previous Tests as captain.

Beauden Barrett has replaced Aaron Cruden at starting flyhalf, beating out two other top-class players competing for the No 10 jersey – Dan Carter, the world’s top Test point-scorer, and the versatile Colin Slade, who was named to the bench.

The All Blacks will boast an experienced starting forward pack, with hooker Dane Coles and props Wyatt Crockett and Owen Franks making up the front row while Brodie Retallick and Sam Whitelock return to the second row, with Jerome Kaino and Kieran Read joining McCaw in the back row.

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WalesWales are hopefully heading for a rugby crescendo when they host “red-letter” world champions New Zealand on Saturday, according to the Welsh team’s defence coach Shaun Edwards.

“It is always a red-letter day when the All Blacks come to town,” said the Wigan and Great Britain rugby league legend.

“And also the fact they are the current world champions makes it a little more special. Whenever a team are world champions, for that period it is a special fixture when they come to your home ground.

“With it being the All Blacks, it is that bit extra special as well.”

After two punishing fitness-focused weeks in camp ahead of the 33-28 defeat by Australia, an experimental Wales scraped past Fiji 17-13, but Edwards said normality had returned.

“We’ve gone back to our standard week. We are pretty happy with our fitness levels,” he said.

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Jonathan Davies

Jonathan Davies

Wales have named an experienced side to face New Zealand on Saturday with centre Jonathan Davies the only personnel change to the team that lost against Australia.

Davies comes into the midfield to partner Jamie Roberts whilst Warren Gatland also calls upon the returning Rhys Webb, Dan Biggar and Leigh Halfpenny in the backline.

Halfpenny comes back into the side after missing the Fiji match and links up with try-scorers from that game, George North and Alex Cuthbert in the back-three. Ospreys half-back pair Webb and Biggar are named at No 9 and No 10 respectively.

The pack features the same eight that started against the Wallabies.

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Nemani Nadolo

Nemani Nadolo

Crusaders wing Nemani Nadolo will take his place at inside centre for Fiji when they face off against Wales in Cardiff on Saturday.

Meanwhile, the Ospreys’ contingent in Warren Gatland’s Wales selection will come up against a familiar foe in the form of Josh Matavesi, who has been named at flyhalf for the opposition.

It will be Matavesi’s seventh international cap but his first for almost exactly two years, his last international appearance coming at Twickenham in November 2012 when he came off the bench against England.

The 24-year old missed Fiji’s defeat to France last Saturday due to a shoulder injury.

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Gethin Jenkins

Gethin Jenkins

Cardiff Blues prop Gethin Jenkins will captain a rejigged Wales team for their clash with Fiji at Cardiff’s Millennium Stadium on Saturday, head coach Warren Gatland announced on Tuesday.

Gatland has elected to make eight changes to the team beaten 33-28 by Australia last weekend, although there is no place in the starting XV for recalled Gloucester fly-half James Hook.

Jenkins takes over from Paul James in the front row, while Scott Baldwin of Ospreys will make his first Wales start at hooker.

Flanker Sam Warburton, the regular captain, is being rested, but there are recalls in the backs for fit-again centre Scott Williams, fly-half Rhys Priestland and scrum-half Mike Phillips.

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James Hook

James Hook

Gloucester flyhalf James Hook was called into Wales’s squad for their remaining November internationals on Sunday after fellow No 10 Dan Biggar suffered a groin strain in the 33-28 defeat by Australia.

The 29-year-old Hook has won 76 caps but has rarely enjoyed the full confidence of Wales coach Warren Gatland, with the New Zealander seemingly mistrustful of the playmaker’s talent.

Meanwhile Hook’s versatility – he has also played Test rugby at fullback and centre – has proved as much a hindrance as a help in establishing himself as a first-choice plyer while Gatland has been in charge of Wales.

However, Biggar’s injury means Hook could be called upon for the Millennium Stadium clash with Fiji on Saturday.

“Hook will link up with the squad tomorrow (Monday) when they gather to prepare for Saturday’s clash against Fiji,” said a Welsh Rugby Union statement issued Sunday.

“No players have been released from the squad.”

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Sean McMahon

Sean McMahon

Melbourne Rebels flanker Sean McMahon will make his senior Australia debut against Wales in Cardiff on Saturday.

The 20-year- old replaces injured Scott Fardy and is one of two changes to the side that lost 29-28 to New Zealand in October.

Number 8, Ben McCalman, takes over from Scott Higginbotham, who is also sidelined through injury.

Quade Cooper and Will Genia are among the replacements after starting in the win over Barbarians at Twickenham.

McMahon featured in the Baa-baas game and has been rewarded for a strong performance with a starting place against Wales.

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WalesGeorge North is set to start at centre when Wales face Australia in the first of their November internationals at Cardiff’s Millennium Stadium on Saturday.

The dynamic Northampton wing was named at outside centre by Wales coach Warren Gatland on Tuesday after injuries deprived him of regular midfield backs Jonathan Davies and Scott Williams.

Now North will partner fellow British and Irish Lion Jamie Roberts in midfield, with his usual left wing berth taken by Scarlets’ Liam Williams.

However, North does have experience of playing in midfield, having started there when Wales beat France during last season’s Six Nations and he has also started there for English champions Northampton.

At scrum-half, Kiwi boss Gatland has chosen Rhys Webb ahead of 87-times capped Mike Phillips.

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WalesWales’ Jonathan Davies has failed to recover from injury in time to face Australia and so Northampton wing George North will switch to midfield.

It means Liam Williams starts on the wing with Leigh Halfpenny at fullback.

And Rhys Webb has been selected at scrum-half ahead of Mike Phillips for the match at the Millennium Stadium.

“We have been impressed with the form of Rhys and Dan [Biggar] at half-back for the Ospreys,” Wales coach Warren Gatland said.

“It will be good to see them together on this stage again.”

Bath loose-head Paul James is preferred to Gethin Jenkins, with the Blues player dropping to the bench.

Sam Warburton will lead the team from open-side, with Dan Lydiate taking the blind-side spot.

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WalesWales Head Coach Warren Gatland has named a 34 man squad to play in the upcoming End Of Year Tours (November Internationals) which features just one uncapped player but no place for Adam Jones and James Hook.

Instead of British & Irish Lions prop Jones, 20-year-old Ospreys prop Nicky Smith has been called into the squad for the first time and features alongside 12 players who return to International duty after missing the summer tour to South Africa.

Gatland’s side take on Australia, Fiji, New Zealand and South Africa on consecutive weekends in November as the countdown begins to next year’s Rugby World Cup.

In the front-row, former Wales Under 20 prop Smith, who has started all seven of the Ospreys’ encounters this season, joins the experienced Gethin Jenkins and Paul James.

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Leigh Halfpenny

Leigh Halfpenny

Cardiff Blues and Ospreys are interested in signing Leigh Halfpenny if his Toulon contract is terminated.

Toulon president Mourad Boudjellal says Halfpenny’s ongoing injuries could lead to his departure without playing a game since arriving for 2014-15.

Blues director and Wales legend Gareth Edwards said: “We’d welcome him with open arms.”

Ospreys coach Steve Tandy said: “We’d always be interested in the quality of Halfpenny, but it’s paper talk.”

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WalesWith Welsh Rugby getting ready for the competitive part of the 2014/15 season, which starts on Friday, we have a look at the big name moves, including the ins and outs at the four Welsh regions and a look at some of the player and coach movements outside the country.

Adam Jones became the biggest Welsh rugby headline-stealer with his shock signing for Cardiff Blues after being an Osprey since 2003.

But the British and Irish Lions prop’s switch after season-long speculation was not the only move to make fans sit up and take notice.

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WalesThe Welsh Rugby Union and the nation’s four regions could announce a deal this week to end almost two years of in-fighting over funding and control.

Wales captain Sam Warburton is expected to be joined by nine more players on dual contracts under the new agreement.

If the deal goes ahead, funding for the 10 will be in addition to an annual £6.7m shared between Cardiff Blues, Ospreys, Scarlets and Dragons.

The WRU and regions have been asked to comment.

Their last deal ended in June 2014, and if a fresh settlement is not forthcoming the regions face a combined £6.7m shortfall going into the 2014-15 season.

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Gareth Anscombe

Gareth Anscombe

Outgoing Chiefs and Auckland utility back Gareth Anscombe said that he decided to switch his allegiance from New Zealand to Wales after realising he had little hope of making the All Blacks.

Anscombe, 23, who has signed to play for the Cardiff Blues, said he spoke with All Black coach Steve Hansen earlier this year and found he was well down the pecking order in his favoured position of flyhalf.

“There was a lot of factors, but I mean, there’s a lot of classy No 10’s that are floating around in New Zealand right now and they’re all pretty young as well,” he said.

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Warren Gatland

Warren Gatland

Warren Gatland hopes Wales will “right the wrongs” of last week’s 38-16 thumping at the hands of the Springboks, when the teams play their second Test in Nelspruit on Saturday.

“We have been really happy with the response from the players during training this week, we have had a good week and we see Saturday as an opportunity to right the wrongs of last weekend,” said Gatland, announcing two changes to the side that got hammered in Durban.

“We were disappointed with last week’s display but we want to finish the season with a big performance and show what we know we are capable of.”

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WalesWales have made two changes to their side to face South African in the second match of the two-Test series in Nelspruit on Saturday.

Scarlets prop Samson Lee will make his first start for Wales in the front row and flank Josh Turnbull comes into the starting XV after featuring from the bench last weekend.

Lee, who made his international debut last November against Argentina, will join Gethin Jenkins and Ken Owens in a new look front row.

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Adam Jones

Adam Jones

WalesAdam Jones will make his 100th International appearance in the game at Growthpoint Kings Park in Durban, in a match that will be his 95th cap for Wales (five appearances for the British and Irish Lions).

Gatland has named two uncapped players in his match day squad with Scarlets scrum-half Gareth Davies and Ospreys’ Matthew Morgan, who both impressed in recent outings, named as replacements.

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WalesThe Springboks completed a successful first match of their season on Saturday against Nick Mallet’s World XV at Newlands but the first proper international action for them starts this weekend as the Castle Lager Incoming Series gets underway with a Test against Wales in Durban on Saturday.

There often is debate and criticism about the make up of squads that Northern Hemisphere countries send on these mid-year tours which take place after their taxing domestic seasons. This year though the two teams due to play against South Africa have got good reason to be fielding teams which are going to be under strength in certain areas. The Test against Scotland falls outside the international window and so their players who ply their trade outside Scotland will not be making the trip over. The tour for Wales has been made much harder due to numerous injuries, no least to inspirational captain Sam Warburton.

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Warren Gatland

Warren Gatland

WalesThe bookmakers have installed South Africa as overwhelming favourites, but Wales coach Warren Gatland has his eye on a 2-0 sweep for his team.

If Gatland was a betting man he would have jumped at the 18-1 on offer by some SA bookies for a Welsh series win.

It is not surprising for a coach to publicly back his side, but Gatland went further by suggesting that only 2-0 series victory will do when they meet the Springboks in Durban (this Saturday 14 June) and Nelspruit (next week, 21 June).

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Dan Lydiate

Dan Lydiate

WalesDan Lydiate will captain Wales in their opening game in South Africa against Eastern Province Kings in Port Elizabeth on Tuesday.

The British and Irish Lions flanker has recovered from a hamstring injury to lead a match day squad that includes all four uncapped players who have made the journey to South Africa.

Three of those players are named in Warren Gatland’s starting XV with Matthew Morgan lining up at full-back, Steven Shingler at inside centre and Jordan Williams on the wing.

They are joined in the backline by Cardiff Blues duo Alex Cuthbert and Cory Allen as well as James Hook and Rhodri Williams at half back.

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