Tommy Reffell is handed his first Wales cap against South Africa

Tommy Reffell is handed his first Wales cap ahead of Test against South Africa after his superb form for Leicester Tigers while Dan Lydiate and George North return to Wayne Pivac’s side after long injury lay-offs

  • Tommy Reffell’s Leicester form was a crucial factor in his Wales squad selection
  • The 23-year-old flanker Reffell will make his international debut in South Africa
  • Dan Lydiate, George North and Kieran Hardy will also start for Wales in Pretoria

Tommy Reffell’s form and fitness in helping Leicester Tigers to this season’s Premiership title was the crucial factor in him being selected for a Wales debut against South Africa.

As predicted by Sportsmail, 23-year-old flanker Reffell will make his international bow in Pretoria on Saturday as Wayne Pivac’s side look to cause a huge shock.

Current world champions South Africa are formidable opposition for Wales and the toughest of opponents for Reffell – a former Wales Under-18 and Under-20 captain – to face when he makes the step-up to the highest level. Dan Lydiate, George North and Kieran Hardy also start for Wales.

Tommy Reffell’s (right) form helping Leicester win the league title was key in Wales selection

The 23-year-old flanker Reffell will make his international bow in Pretoria on Saturday

But prop Tomas Francis is only fit enough for the bench after a back injury scare. Veteran lock Alun Wyn Jones – the world’s most capped player – is also among the replacements.

Wales head coach Pivac said: ‘Tommy is a player we’ve been watching for some time now.

‘He’s been in very good form with Leicester 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 and George return for Wales. We’re very pleased they’re back after long lay-offs. 

Dan Lydiate (left) and George North (right) return to Wayne Pivac’s side after injury lay-offs

‘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, is 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: Liam Williams; Louis Rees-Zammit, George North, Nick Tompkins, Josh Adams; Dan Biggar (capt), Kieran Hardy; Gareth Thomas, Ryan Elias, Dillon Lewis, Will Rowlands, Adam Beard, Dan Lydiate, Tommy Reffell, Taulupe Faletau

Replacements: Dewi Lake, Rhys Carre, Tomas Francis, Alun Wyn Jones, Josh Navidi, Tomos Williams, Gareth Anscombe, Owen Watkin

Wales are huge underdogs for their three-match series with the Springboks, especially after a poor Six Nations in which Pivac’s men finished fifth and lost at home to Italy for the first time.

Liam Williams, Louis Rees-Zammit and Josh Adams make up the back three.

North, now fully recovered after a serious knee injury, returns to the Wales set-up for the first time since the 2021 Six Nations title win and starts alongside Nick Tompkins at centre.

Captain Dan Biggar is alongside scrum-half Hardy.

In the pack, Gareth Thomas and Ryan Elias are in the front row with Dillon Lewis stepping in at tighthead for Francis.

Will Rowlands and Adam Beard continue their lock partnership which flourished in the Six Nations with Jones on the bench.

Lydiate, who like North is back after severe knee trouble, is in the back-row with Reffell and No 8 Taulupe Faletau.

Dewi Lake, Rhys Carre, Josh Navidi, Tomos Williams, Gareth Anscombe and Owen Watkin are Wales’ other replacements.

Loftus Versfeld in Pretoria is sold out for this weekend’s match, with the Springboks set to play in front of full crowds on home soil for the first time since they won the Rugby World Cup in 2019.

Wales head coach Wayne Pivac is expecting a great atmosphere and challenge in Pretoria

Speaking about that prospect, Pivac added: ‘This is our first tour away as a group so it’s fantastic for us. The guys have had a good week’s build up and have really enjoyed each other’s company and being away in different surroundings.

‘It’s going to be a great atmosphere Saturday and a great challenge.

‘It’s one we’re looking forward to.’

Wales’ players will wear black armbands on Saturday in honour of legendary former international Phil Bennett who died on June 12.

Wales will face South Africa in Saturday’s first Test in Pretoria (kick-off 4.05pm).

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