The Wales coach, Steve Hansen, says that his team to face New Zealand in a fortnight is already in his head, but last night he gave the rookie Llanelli flanker Dafydd Jones, a chance to make him change his mind about that team for the All Blacks by naming him on the blind side against Fiji at the Millennium Stadium tomorrow.
The debutant Jones is a pacy, powerful loose forward, possessed of plenty of skill and the selection of this 23-year-old looks to be part of a specific strategy on the part of Hansen to adopt a similar running game against Fiji. That impression was underlined with confirmation from the Wales management that the stadium roof will be closed for the game – ensuring firm going for the thoroughbred racers on both sides.
Hansen said of Jones: "He is a good athlete and he is someone we see as having a big part to play in Wales' future.'' Jones will therefore need to play a massive part in Wales' present, but the man himself was not at all tense.
"I was not really surprised to be selected,'' said Jones, "I have been a part of the national squad for the last two weeks. Because of the competition for back row places at Llanelli I have had to work hard all season and this is the reward.
"I have played for the A side, taken part in the European Cup with Llanelli and I feel I am ready for this step up.''
The Wales captain, Colin Charvis, who will be alongside Jones at No 8 has no doubts about Jones' ability. "He is a hell of an athlete, useful in the line-out and he can tackle as well. I know because when I played against him recently he hit me hard every time.''
It is now up to Jones to make as big an impact on the South Sea islanders and more importantly on Hansen himself.
WALES (v Fiji, the Millennium Stadium, tomorrow): R Williams (Cardiff); M Jones (Llanelli), T Shanklin (Saracens), S Parker (Pontypridd), G Thomas (Bridgend); S Jones (Llanelli), D Peel (Llanelli); I Thomas (Llanelli), M Davies (Pontypridd), B Evans (Swansea), R Sidoli (Pontypridd), G Llewellyn (Neath), D Jones (Llanelli), M Williams (Cardiff), C Charvis (Swansea, capt). Replacements: A Lewis (Cardiff), M Madden (Llanelli), S Williams (Northampton), R Parks (Pontypridd), R Powell (Cardiff), I Harris (Cardiff), J Robinson (Cardiff).
FIJI: J Narruhn; N Ligairi, S Rabeni or E Ruivadra, S Bai, F Lasagavibau; N Little, J Rauluni; R Nyholt, G Smith (capt), W Cavubati, A Naevo, S Raiwalui, S Tawake, A Doviverata, A Mocelutu. Replacements: W Gadolo, P Biu, I Rasila, S Koyamaibole, S Rabaka, I Mow, W Serevi.
* The centre Jean de Villiers and the lock Bakkies Botha will make their debuts for South Africa in the Test against France tomorrow. The Springboks coach, Rudolf Straeuli, has also recalled the centre Robbie Fleck, who has been out for 15 months with an ankle injury.
SOUTH AFRICA (v France, Marseilles, tomorrow): W Greeff; B Paulse, J De Villiers, R Fleck, B Russell; A Pretorius, N De Kock; J van Niekerk, A J Venter, C Krige (capt), J Labuschagne, B Botha, W Meyer, J Dalton, L Sephaka. Replacements: A Jacobs, B James, B Conradie, P Wannenburg, M Wentzel, W Roux, L van Biljon.
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