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Magnificent Seven named in Wales squad for South African Test

International | 30th June 2022

Seven Cardiff players have been named in the Wales matchday squad for Saturday's opening Test against South Africa in Pretoria.

Wayne Pivac's men will go toe-to-toe with the reigning world champions in front of a capacity crowd at Loftus Versfeld Stadium, in the first of three Test matches over the coming weeks.

Four Blue and Blacks are selected in the starting XV, including incoming signings Liam Williams and Taulupe Faletau.

Full back Williams, who arrives from Scarlets, links up with club team-mate Josh Adams in the back three - which also includes former Cardiff pathway wing, Louis Rees-Zamit.

Dillon Lewis is given the nod at tighthead, earning his 14th start on the international stage, while Faletau is handed the number eight jersey. The former Bath Rugby forward wins his 90th Wales cap in a back row that includes the returning Dan Lydiate and uncapped Leicester flanker, Tommy Reffell.

Elsewhere, Dan Biggar captains the side at outside half, George North makes a long-awaited return to partner Nick Tompkins in midfield and Will Rowlands combines with Adam Beard in the second row.

Cardiff trio Rhys Carré, Josh Navidi and Tomos Williams are all included on the bench, alongside former Blue and Black, Gareth Anscombe, and the experienced Alun Wyn Jones.

The players will wear black armbands on Saturday in honour of Wales international #730 Phil Bennett, who died on 12 June.

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 weekend’s match, with the Springboks set to play in front of full crowds on home soil for the first time since they won the Rugby World Cup.

Speaking about that prospect, Pivac added: “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 senior men’s team for the 1st Test against South Africa (Saturday 2 July, KO 4.05pm BST. Live Sky Sports Action  with highlights on S4C)15. Liam Williams (Cardiff Rugby – 78 caps)14. Louis Rees-Zammit (Gloucester Rugby – 16 caps)13. George North (Ospreys – 102 caps)12. Nick Tompkins (Saracens – 20 caps)11. Josh Adams (Cardiff Rugby – 39 caps)10. Dan Biggar (Northampton Saints – 100 caps), captain9. Kieran Hardy (Scarlets – 11 caps)1. Gareth Thomas (Ospreys – 10 caps) 2. Ryan Elias (Scarlets – 27 caps)3. Dillon Lewis (Cardiff Rugby – 38 caps)4. Will Rowlands (Dragons – 18 caps) 5. Adam Beard (Ospreys – 34 caps)6. Dan Lydiate (Ospreys – 65 caps)7. Tommy Reffell (Leicester Tigers – uncapped)8. Taulupe Faletau (Cardiff Rugby – 89 caps)Replacements16. Dewi Lake (Ospreys – 5 caps)17. Rhys Carre (Cardiff Rugby – 16 caps) 18. Tomas Francis (Ospreys 64 caps)19. Alun Wyn Jones (Ospreys – 150 caps)20. Josh Navidi (Cardiff Rugby – 30 caps) 21. Tomos Williams (Cardiff Rugby – 33 caps)22. Gareth Anscombe (Ospreys – 31 caps)23. Owen Watkin (Ospreys – 31 caps)