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Predicting a new look Welsh 23 to face the Springboks at Twickenham

BY Philip Bendon  ·  Monday Jun 3, 2024

Wales head coach Warren Gatland has today unveiled his squad to face South Africa and Australia in this year’s summer tests.

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Included in Gatland’s squad are four uncapped players Cardiff’s Ellis Bevan and Jacob Beetham, Ospreys’ Keelan Giles and Gloucester Rugby’s Josh Hathaway.

Elsewhere, veteran fullback Liam Williams returns after missing the Guinness Six Nations whilst on duty with his Japanese club Kubota Spears.

Other returning players included Henry Thomas, Cory Hill,  Ben Carter, Dewi Lake, Jac Morgan, Taine Plumtree and Christ Tshiunza.

With 19 days to go until Wales meet the World Champions in a one-off test at Twickenham Stadium in London, we take a look at a new-look side Gatland could pick.

15. Liam Williams
A veteran presence in a youthful back three, this a tough call to make given Cameron Winnett’s showing in the Six Nations but against the Boks Williams’ experience will be crucial.

14. Josh Hathaway
Arguably the most exciting prospect in the squad, the Gloucester flyer has x-factor. Showing his class throughout the season before a highly impressive late cameo against the Sharks proved that despite being just 20-year-old he is ready to make the step-up.

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13. Mason Grady
Arguably a better option at wing, Grady has at times fought the going tough in the centres at test level. However the talent is clearly there and Gatland clearly values physical ball carriers in the midfield.

12. Nick Tompkins
The experienced operator for the inside backs, Tompkins edges Cardiff’s Ben Thomas given he will likely operate as the back-up flyhalf as well as centre. Proving his worth routinely to the side, Tompkins will bring control to the Welsh defensive line and direction in attack.

11. Rio Dyer
One of the players of the Six Nations from a Welsh perspective, the Dragons flyer generates an air of anticipation every time he touches the ball. His out and out pace in conjunction with Hathaway on the other wing gives Gatland’s side some great options for strike plays and a real counter attack threat.

10. Sam Costelow
The lone specialist ten in the squad, Costelow will pick up where he left in the Six Nations as a developing playmaker at test level. Still raw overall but with bundles of confidence to dig into his deep bag of tricks.

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9. Ellis Bevan
Given the age profile of the other nines in the squad plus their up and down form during the Six Nations, it is time for new blood in the position. Bevan has shown flashes of brilliance for a generally struggling Cardiff side.

8. Mackenzie Martin
The latest in a long line of ultra exciting number 8s to pull on the Welsh jersey, Martin is the real deal. A man amongst boys at U20 level, the 6’5″ and 116kg backrow is ready to make his impact felt at the senior level.

7. Jac Morgan (C)
A very tight call between the returning Morgan and the uber impressive Tommy Reffell for the number seven shirt. Given Morgan is regarded as a generational talent and a key leader for the Welsh side he just takes it over Reffell who will be tasked with neutralising the ‘bomb squad’ later in the contest.

6. Taine Plumtree
The rangy playmaking backrow is the perfect ‘link-man’ for Gatland’s side given his comfort in loose play. Mix in his ability at the line-out with the frequency he gets his hands free in the tackle and Gatland has a potent and well balanced looking backrow.

5. Dafydd Jenkins
The Six Nations captain will operate as a key leader behind Morgan against the Boks. There is little doubt he will be challenged greatly at the line out but with his secondrow Ben Carter in the team he will have more opportunities to play a roaming lock role as a ball carrier rather exclusively a tight phases, rucking role.

4. Ben Carter
The engine of the Welsh pack, the 23-year-old brings extra bulk to the side and will need to be right on point with his work in the tight areas. At scrum time he is packing down behind a front row who will likely be facing immense pressure from an experienced Springbok trio no matter which selection Rassie Erasmus picks.

3. Keiron Assiratti
A dynamic ball carrying tighthead, Assiratti looks set for a date with Ox Nche at Twickenham meaning his scrummaging will need to be the best its ever been. Around the park the Cardiff player brings a lot as a ball player and this should be worked into the game plan in a similar way to the amount of touches Tadhg Furlong gets in the Irish set up.

2. Dewi Lake
Another important leader for Wales, Lake is head and shoulders above the rest as the first choice hooker at the time of writing. His injury enforced absence during the Six Nations was a massive blow to Gatland’s side. Facing the Boks his line-out throwing and scrummaging ability will be crucial.

1. Kemsley Mathias
The Scarlets man gets the first crack of the whip in the number one shirt ahead of the physically imposing Corey Domachowski and experienced Gareth Thomas. As a key member of the Welsh U20 side that beat New Zealand in 2019, Mathias has long been touted as a fixture in the number one shirt for the senior side. Now is his chance and it doesn’t get much tougher than the world champions.

REPLACEMENTS:

16. Evan Lloyd
A physical option from the bench who will pick up where Lake leaves off as a breakdown threat and strong carrier.

17. Corey Domachowski
Against the Boks physicality in the final thirty minutes is going to be key and Domachowski brings power in abundance from the bench.

18. Dillon Lewis
An experienced head to keep things cool at the crucial moments as the contest wears on especially at scrum time.

19. Cory Hill
Like Lewis, Hill will enter the fray just when he is most needed especially if the contest is close.

20. Christ Tshiunza
A big time hitter, Tshiunza’s ability to get amongst things at the contact point will be a major boost as the Boks roll out there ‘bomb squad’.

21. Tommy Reffell
Complimenting Tshiunza, Reffell brings a poaching threat to proceedings and could well link up with Morgan as a double threat depending on how Gatland deploys him.

22. Gareth Davies
The veteran halfback will hopefully have a bit more space around the breakdown to exploit later in the fixture. In ideal world neither he or Bevan will need to shift out wide but both area more than capable if necessary.

23. Ben Thomas
Covering both centre and flyhalf, Thomas is a vastly different player to Costelow and will bring a directness that could challenge Boks hard press off the line. As far as exciting prospects go Thomas is right up there as either a ball playing inside centre or a physical flyhalf.

Wales squad:

Forwards: Corey Domachowski, Kemsley Mathias, Gareth Thomas, Elliot Dee, Dewi Lake, Evan Lloyd, Sam Parry, Keiron Assiratti, Archie Griffin, Dillon Lewis, Harri O’Connor, Henry Thomas, Ben Carter, Cory Hill, Dafydd Jenkins, Matthew Screech, Christ Tshiunza, Mackenzie Martin, Jac Morgan, Taine Plumtree, Tommy Reffell, Aaron Wainwright.

Backs: Ellis Bevan, Gareth Davies, Kieran Hardy, Sam Costelow, Mason Grady, Ben Thomas, Nick Tompkins, Owen Watkin, Rio Dyer, Keelan Giles, Josh Hathaway, Liam Williams, Jacob Beetham, Cameron Winnett

Watch the exclusive reveal-all episode of Walk the Talk with Ardie Savea as he chats to Jim Hamilton about the RWC 2023 experience, life in Japan, playing for the All Blacks and what the future holds. Watch now for free on RugbyPass TV

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