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Pivac in the spotlight as Renell and North feature in Wales squad for South Africa | Wales rugby team

Pivac in the spotlight as Renell and North feature in Wales squad for South Africa | Wales rugby team

Uncapped Leicester flanker Tommy Refell has been named in the Wales squad for this summer’s South African tour for which George North has been recalled after 14 months out of a Test match due to a serious illness knee injury. Alun Wyn Jones, 150 times capped, is also selected, but Jonathan Davies and Callum Sheedy were left out.

Bridgend-born Reffell, a former Wales Under-20 captain, is being rewarded for a succession of outstanding displays in the Tigers’ push for the Premiership title this term. He is joined by uncapped Cardiff No 8 James Ratti in a 33-man squad for three Tests against the world champions in July.

Despite the presence of Jones, who captained Wales at the 2019 World Cup and led them to the Six Nations title last year, Dan Biggar remains captain. Biggar took over Six Nations managerial duties this season while Jones continued his recovery from a long-term shoulder problem. The 36-year-old lock returned to action in Wales against Italy in Marchbut he has only played four games since undergoing two operations to repair an injury he suffered seven months ago.

Biggar, meanwhile, will lead a team stripped of several injured players, including Leigh Halfpenny, Johnny McNicholl, Ross Moriarty, Justin Tipuric and Aaron Wainwright.

Ospreys flanker Jac Morgan is also absent, but players brought back into the fold by Wales head coach Wayne Pivac include Scarlets fly-half Rhys Patchell and Dan Lydiate. Lydiate, who has won 65 caps, has not featured for Wales since last year’s Six Nations opener against Ireland when he suffered a knee injury.

Wales will face Tests in Pretoria, Bloemfontein and Cape Town, starting July 2, having lost the previous 10 games against the Springboks in South Africa. Wales’ poor run since being crowned Six Nations champions in 2021 has seen them win only four of 12 matches, increasing the pressure on Pivac as he prepares for a demanding tour.

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Pivac said: “I spoke to Tommy Rebell before announcing the squad for the Six Nations. We watched Tommy carefully and decided to let him out. He’s been playing really well since then, he’s been very consistent – one of the most consistent players in the English Premiership – so we think he deserves an opportunity and he will be well tested on this tour.

Pivac accepts he has a job ‘where everyone is watching your every move’ as he searches for his Wales players to bounce back from a demoralizing home loss to Italy. Italy’s 22-21 win – their first in Cardiff – saw Wales slip from last year’s Six Nations title to fifth place.

“We had strong discussions as a group of coaches,” Pivac said. “We let the dust settle a bit because emotions were pretty high across the country, and rightly so, because it’s a result no one is proud of.

“The most important thing is that we’ve had these strong discussions, we’ll learn as much as we can from the experience, and hopefully that will make us a better team going forward. That’s definitely the attitude that we take in. What we want to do is turn that frustration, that emotion if you will, into the hard work that is required to go to a place like South Africa.

Quick guide

Wales squad for South Africa tour

Show

Back : G Davies (Scarlets), K Hardy (Scarlets), T Williams (Cardiff), G Anscombe (Ospreys), D Biggar (Northampton, captain), 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), AW Jones (Ospreys), W Rowlands (Dragons), T Basham (Dragons), T Faletau (Bath), D Lydiate (Ospreys), J Navidi (Cardiff ), J Ratti (Cardiff), T Refell (Leicester).

Thank you for your opinion.

When asked if the criticism hurt him, Pivac added, “No, personal criticism doesn’t hurt because it’s a job you know where everyone is watching your every move. When you take these positions, you know there is a responsibility that comes with it. Admittedly, a loss to Italy was something that was not in my thought process, to be honest, without sounding arrogant. I thought we were good enough, that we had done enough work and that we could have won this match several times. Thing is, we didn’t, so you take what goes with it, and a lot of it is justified.

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