Ellis Jenkins will make his first Wales appearance for three years in Saturday’s Autumn Nations Series clash against world champions South Africa.
The Cardiff flanker suffered a serious knee injury during Wales’ 2018 autumn victory over the Springboks and was sidelined from all rugby for 26 months, but he now returns to Test action among six changes following a 54-16 defeat against New Zealand.
Jenkins replaces shoulder injury victim Ross Moriarty, while Will Rowlands takes over from skipper Alun Wyn Jones in the second-row.
Like Moriarty, Jones faces shoulder surgery and a lengthy period out after being hurt during the All Blacks clash, and there are also starts for Louis Rees-Zammit, Nick Tompkins, Dan Biggar and Rhys Carre, with centre Jonathan Davies captaining the team.
Jones and Moriarty are among a number of injured British and Irish Lions unavailable to Wales head coach Wayne Pivac, with that list also including Taulupe Faletau, Ken Owens, George North, Justin Tipuric and Josh Navidi.
Jenkins has shaken off a rib injury to start, but more surprising selections are Saracens centre Tompkins being preferred to Johnny Williams – a try-scorer against New Zealand – and Carre replacing Lions Test loosehead prop Wyn Jones.
❝It’s a different challenge to New Zealand❞
— Welsh Rugby Union 🏉 (@WelshRugbyUnion) November 4, 2021
Tompkins, Gloucester wing Rees-Zammit and Northampton fly-half Biggar were unavailable for the All Blacks fixture as it fell outside World Rugby’s autumn international window and Gallagher Premiership clubs do not release non-English players to feature in those games.
Rees-Zammit is preferred to Owen Lane, with Biggar in for Gareth Anscombe, who drops to the bench, as Wales take on a South Africa team that beat New Zealand in the Rugby Championship last month.
Pivac’s replacements, meanwhile, include uncapped South Africa-born Ulster hooker Bradley Roberts. He was drafted into the national squad last week and qualifies for Wales through his paternal grandmother.
Recent history in the fixture is on Wales’ side after claiming four successive home wins against the Springboks, with South Africa not having triumphed in Cardiff since 2013.
Pivac said: “South Africa coming to town, as world champions, offers a different challenge to New Zealand.
“They have got a massive forward pack – they are big across the park, really – and they bring a huge aerial threat, so it is going to be a different challenge.
“It is a big Test match and we need to get what we think is the best side out there.”
Alun Wyn Jones faces a lengthy spell out of the game after injuring the same shoulder that he hurt ahead of the Lions’ South Africa tour earlier this year.
Speaking during a press conference, Pivac said: “I don’t think he will be available for the Six Nations.
“It is on others to step up now.”
Wales kick off their defence of the Six Nations title against Ireland in Dublin on February 5, with Pivac stating that he expects 36-year-old Jones, who has won 149 Wales caps, to be back playing before the end of this season.
Wales team to play South Africa at the Principality Stadium on Saturday.
15 Johnny McNicholl (Scarlets)
14 Louis Rees-Zammit (Gloucester Rugby)
13 Jonathan Davies (Scarlets – Capt)
12 Nick Tompkins (Saracens)
11 Josh Adams (Cardiff Rugby)
10 Dan Biggar (Northampton Saints)
9 Tomos Williams (Cardiff Rugby);
1 Rhys Carré (Cardiff Rugby)
2 Ryan Elias (Scarlets)
3 Tomas Francis (Ospreys)
4 Will Rowlands (Dragons)
5 Adam Beard (Ospreys)
6 Ellis Jenkins (Cardiff Rugby)
7 Taine Basham (Dragons)
8 Aaron Wainwright (Dragons)
16 Bradley Roberts (Ulster – uncapped)
17 Wyn Jones (Scarlets)
18 WillGriff John (Scarlets – uncapped)
19 Ben Carter (Dragons)
20 Seb Davies (Cardiff Rugby)
21 Gareth Davies (Scarlets)
22 Gareth Anscombe (Ospreys)
23 Liam Williams (Scarlets)