Hook shoulders burden as Wales forced to make do without Williams

Shane Williams has been ruled out of Wales' Tests against South Africa and New Zealand with a shoulder injury. The Ospreys winger was not named in Warren Gatland's side to face the Springboks at the Millennium Stadium on Saturday due to the injury, allowing Leigh Halfpenny to reclaim his place in the starting XV.

The absence of Williams, Wales' record try scorer with 51 to his name, is one of three changes from the side which beat Italy at the end of the Six Nations. The other changes come in the pack, with Cardiff Blues lock Deiniol Jones beating off Alun-Wyn Jones to replace the injured Luke Charteris, while Ospreys prop Paul James replaces Gethin Jenkins, who is another injury absentee.

The major surprise comes with the selection of James Hook alongside Jamie Roberts in the centre. Hook had been due to have a shoulder operation but pleaded with Gatland and his coaching team to be involved in the match with the world champions before going under the knife, although he will still miss the trip to New Zealand to undergo the required surgery.

"James is desperate to play and it just shows how much it means to him to put that red jersey on," said head coach Gatland.

"We are obviously delighted to have him and would particularly like to thank Scott Johnson and Andrew Hore at the Ospreys who have helped to make it possible. You only have to look at the man of the match and player of the year awards James has been picking up to see what a great asset he is to any team and we will be facing the world champions as a stronger team because of his involvement.

"We are very much looking forward to the challenge of facing the number one team in the world at the Millennium Stadium in the glorious summer sunshine in front of our home crowd on Saturday afternoon."

Tom Prydie, Wales' youngest cap, retains his place on the wing after making a solid debut against Italy, while there is a place on the bench for Blues back-rower Andy Powell, recalled after pleading guilty to driving a golf buggy while over the drink-drive limit the morning after the dramatic victory over Scotland in February.

Wales team

To face South Africa in Cardiff on Saturday: Lee Byrne (Ospreys); Leigh Halfpenny (Cardiff Blues), James Hook (Ospreys), Jamie Roberts (Blues), Tom Prydie (Ospreys); Stephen Jones (Scarlets), Mike Phillips (Ospreys); Paul James (Ospreys), Matthew Rees (Scarlets), Adam Jones (Ospreys), Bradley Davies (Blues), Deiniol Jones (Blues), Jonathan Thomas (Ospreys), Sam Warburton (Blues), Ryan Jones (capt, Ospreys).

Replacements Huw Bennett (Ospreys), John Yapp (Blues), Alun-Wyn Jones (Ospreys), Andy Powell, Richie Rees (both Blues), Dan Biggar, Andrew Bishop (both Ospreys).

TV BBCi/BBC 2 Wales.

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