The uncapped Leicester flanker Tommy Reffell has been named in the Wales squad for this summer’s South Africa tour for which George North has been recalled after 14 months out of Test match action because of a serious knee injury. The 150-times-capped Alun Wyn Jones is also selected, but Jonathan Davies and Callum Sheedy have been left out.
Bridgend-born Reffell, a former Wales Under-20s captain, is rewarded for a succession of outstanding displays during Tigers’ push for the Premiership title this term. He is joined by the uncapped Cardiff No 8 James Ratti in a 33-man group for three Tests against the world champions in July.
Despite the presence of Jones, who was Wales’s 2019 World Cup captain and led them to the Six Nations title last year, Dan Biggar remains as captain. Biggar took over leadership duties for this season’s Six Nations while Jones continued his recovery from a long-term shoulder problem. The 36-year-old lock returned to Wales action against Italy in March, but he has played only four games since undergoing two operations to rectify an injury he suffered seven months ago.
Biggar, meanwhile, will lead a squad shorn of several injured players, including Leigh Halfpenny, Johnny McNicholl, Ross Moriarty, Justin Tipuric and Aaron Wainwright.
The Ospreys flanker Jac Morgan also misses out, but players brought back into the fold by the Wales head coach, Wayne Pivac, include the Scarlets fly-half Rhys Patchell and Dan Lydiate. Lydiate, who has won 65 caps, has not featured for Wales since the opening game of last year’s Six Nations against Ireland, when he suffered a knee injury.
Wales face Tests in Pretoria, Bloemfontein and Cape Town, starting on 2 July, having lost all 10 previous games against the Springboks in South Africa. Wales’s poor run since being crowned 2021 Six Nations champions has seen them win only four of 12 matches, ramping up the pressure on Pivac as he prepares for a demanding tour.
Pivac said: “I spoke to Tommy Reffell before we announced the squad for the Six Nations. We looked hard at Tommy and decided to leave him out then. He has played very well since, he’s been very consistent – one of the most consistent players in the English Premiership – so we feel that he deserves an opportunity and he will be well tested on this tour.”
On the captaincy, Pivac added: “We’ve obviously got great leadership in the group with Alun Wyn and Dan. Dan did well in the Six Nations and Al has come back from a pretty big lay-off. He has had a little bit of rugby, and we want him to hit his straps as a second-row and be the best player he can be and focus on playing.”
Wales squad for South Africa tour
Backs: G Davies (Scarlets), K Hardy (Scarlets), T Williams (Cardiff), G Anscombe (Ospreys), D Biggar (Northampton, capt), R Patchell (Scarlets), G North (Ospreys), N Tompkins (Saracens), O Watkin (Ospreys), J Williams (Scarlets), J Adams (Cardiff), A Cuthbert (Ospreys), L Rees-Zammit (Gloucester), L Williams (Scarlets).
Forwards: R Carre (Cardiff), W Jones (Scarlets), G Thomas (Ospreys), L Brown (Dragons), T Francis (Ospreys), D Lewis (Cardiff), R Elias (Scarlets), D Lake (Ospreys), S Parry (Ospreys), A Beard (Ospreys), B Carter (Dragons), A W Jones (Ospreys), W Rowlands (Dragons), T Basham (Dragons), T Faletau (Bath), D Lydiate (Ospreys), J Navidi (Cardiff), J Ratti (Cardiff), T Reffell (Leicester).