Dragons lock Rowlands starts ahead of Wales legend Jones for opener against Boks

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STARTER: Dragons lock Will Rowlands is in the Wales XV to face South Africa
STARTER: Dragons lock Will Rowlands is in the Wales XV to face South Africa

DRAGONS powerhouse Will Rowlands has been picked ahead of legendary lock Alun Wyn Jones for Wales’ opening Test against South Africa.

The 30-year-old will join forces with Adam Beard in the second row on Saturday (kick-off 4.05pm) with Lions skipper Jones having to settle for a place on the bench.

Rowlands had an impressive 2021/22 on the Test stage when featuring in every game apart from the autumn clash with Australia due to concussion.

The Dragons man was controversially dropped to the bench for the Six Nations finale against Italy because Jones returned from a shoulder injury, a call that backfired with a shock late loss at Principality Stadium.

Wayne Pivac has recalled Rowlands to face the formidable Springboks pack but he is the only Dragon in action with flanker Taine Basham missing out along with lock prospect Ben Carter.

Leicester flanker Tommy Reffell makes his debut at openside to join experienced former Dragons Dan Lydiate and Taulupe Faletau in the back row.

Head coach 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.”

WALES

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), CAPT
9. 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)

Replacements
16. 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)

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