In a move very in keeping with the current regime the WRU have organised a summer that should benefit Welsh Rugby in the long whilst simultaneously infuriating the Welsh rugby public in the short term. A tour to play the reigning World Champions and the nation who defeated Gatland’s Lions last summer is mission impossible for a team who have largely looked unable to challenge Southern Hemisphere sides (and Italy last time out) under Wayne Pivac so it’s difficult to find much to be optimistic about but it should play a vital part of the build-up to a World Cup that begins in France next September. The return of Rhys Patchell, Johnny Williams, Sam Parry and Dan Lydiate alongside the first call up for Premiership winner Tommy Reffell should give Pivac options that he was sorely missing during the 6 Nations. Playing two Tests against the Springboks at altitude will be absolutely brutal so expectations are rightly low however it will provide a valuable chance to test Wales’ inconsistent set piece against a team who traditionally have strong forwards and are able to pick players who have very successful domestic seasons.
But who will Pivac select to take on this monumental task? The first Test could be the best chance for Wales to run the Boks close so it would be unlikely the coach would try an experimental team first up, I imagine there’ll be a return for experienced heads and as many settled combinations as possible –
- Rhys Carre. He’s finished the season well but more importantly he’s huge
- Ryan Elias, He’s a physical presence and with no Ken Owens he seems the preferred starter
- Tomas Francis. He’s the safest pair of hands on the tight-head side and also massive
- Adam Beard. One of the best maul defenders in the world and a line-out specialst. You guessed it, he’s also massive.
- Alun-Wyn Jones. It would be odd to take a 36 year old former captain and not play him. He’s always hugely influential too.
- Dan Lydiate. Another experienced campaigner who’s always willing to put his body on the line.
- Tommy Reffell. Josh Navidi’s versatility makes him the perfect player to have on the bench and Reffell is the only out and out jackaler n the squad (which seems odd)
- Taulupe Faletau. Been there, seen it, bought the t-shirt, still looks cool as a cucumber. A calming presence and able to do pretty much anythong on a rugby pitch
- Tomos Williams. Questionable facial hair but the ability to make things happen even if the pack are struggling. Pivac seems to favour his mercurial streak over Hardy’s ability to make a break.
- Dan Biggar. He’s the captain, if he’s fit he starts and Anscombe or Patchell’s versatility would be great from the bench.
- Alex Cuthbert. He can finish tries better than pretty much anyone else in the squad. Another one who is also massive.
- Nick Tompkins. If Pivac is worried about Andre Esterhuizen (he shouldn’t be, he should be worried about everyone) why not start someone who played opposite him 3 weeks ago?
- George North. He’s back, he’s integral in getting the ball over the gainline and another one who is (yes, you’ve guessed it) quite massive.
- Josh Adams. He’s a very good defender on the wing (not at 13) and he can score a try if he get’s even the smallest chance.
- Liam Williams. Pivac likes a spark plug at 15 more than he likes a tactical kicker so it’d be a surprise if Anscombe started there in the first Test (and with no Protheroe, Lloyd or Collins in the squad there aren’t many options)