Wales lost one up-and-comer yesterday but gained two established names for the weekend's Test against South Africa. The misery at the absence of Sam Warburton will be tempered by the news that Lee Byrne and Ryan Jones will be fit to play against the world champions.
Warburton impressed many against Australia on Saturday, but the open-side's tireless exertions came at a price. The 22-year-old tore a calf muscle and is now almost certain to miss the rest of the autumn series. Wales will rely on the experience of Martyn Williams.
Warren Gatland will name his XV for the Millennium Stadium tomorrow and Byrne, barring any adverse reaction in training to his broken metacarpal, is certain to be included at full-back, with James Hook moving to outside centre. Whether Jones will return from his own calf problems to captain the side from the base of the scrum is debatable.
Robin McBryde, the forwards coach, made some exceedingly positive comments about the blind-side Dan Lydiate and the No 8 Jonathan Thomas and, seeing as a combination of injuries has limited Jones' game time this season, any inclusion in the starting XV may be seen as premature. "When you have a pack who played like they did against the Wallabies it's always going to be tough to get back in," said Jones, who is also an option at lock. "But that's for others to decide."
Jones was not so diplomatic about the likely selection, or otherwise, of the half-back duo. Mike Phillips and Stephen Jones have come under fire following the 25-16 defeat to Australia, with the former supposedly fighting for his place with Richie Rees. Terry Holmes, the great No 9 to whom Phillips is often compared, is one who believes he should be dropped. However, Jones evidently does not agree.
"This weekend's perfect for Mike, isn't it? A big, physical, abrasive player who always wears his heart on his sleeve," said Jones. "Look, there's only one way Mike knows. He's just going to turn up and stick two fingers up to his critics and probably pull something out of the bag. He doesn't take criticism lightly and I'm sure he will put it right."
Meanwhile, the South Africa coach, Peter de Villiers, has made just one change to the side who accounted for Ireland in Dublin, bringing in Francois Steyn in the centre at the expense of Zane Kirchner. The peerless lock Victor Matfield will lead out his side and, with 103 appearances, will become his country's record Test cap holder.Reuse content