Wayne Beer will show off his Welsh team in the coming days for a challenging tour of South Africa – and what new faces can we expect?
On 2, 9 and 16 July Wales awaits three trials against the world champions in their backyard and it will not be a journey for the faint of heart. The Springboks will be very happy to go when they start their international calendar and welcome fans to their first test match since the Covid-19 pandemic.
Beer has many problems with injuries and seeks to revive the form of the team, which in a year moved from the champions of six nations to fifth. These are also Pivak’s last summer matches before serious preparations for the 2023 World Cup, so this is his last real chance to experiment.
It should also be noted that due to the pandemic this is also Pivak’s first tour abroad as a Welsh coach. There is something to ponder, but the biggest challenge will be to find a balance between the side that looks to the future and the side that can win here and now.
Given all this, WalesOnline has assembled a team of 37 players who can be in the calculations.
Liam Williams, Johnny McNichol, Josh Adams, Louis Reese-Zamit, Alex Cuthbert, Ryan Conbir
Fitness is a real problem in this area. Williams, McNichol and Adams are rehabilitating injuries, and Pivak will be hoping for good news on these fronts because, especially for defenders, Wales is not full of options.
The head coach will be desperate to get Williams and McNicholl to achieve this, because if Lee Halfpenie is still on the sidelines, their absence will be catastrophic.
As for the best news, Louis Reese-Zamit has reopened his form for Gloucester, having made six attempts in eight games after being released by Wales in six nations, and Alex Cuthbert playing well for the Ospreys.
With some space on the team, Beer may decide to lead Scarlett Speedster Canberra, who recently made a hat-trick for the Llanelli region against the Ospreys.
It would be a choice of wildcards, and Canberra would not necessarily see much action, but it would be for him an introduction to the environment and would give Pivak the opportunity to assess whether he is a viable option for moving forward.
Jonathan Davis, Nick Tompkins, George North, Owen Watkin
The return of the North will be seen as a real positive. Wales lacked a leading advantage in the six-nation attack that North provided with 13 during the 2021 success. He was on his way to becoming a lion for the third time before the injury, so Beer will be keen to bring him back right into that channel.
There is nothing else to discuss. Tompkins went well for the Saracens, as did Davis and Watkin for their regions. Scarlett Center Johnny Williams can peek in, and Jack Dixon of the Dragons deserves a mention.
Dan Biggar, Gareth Enscombe, Colum Shidi
Pivac is expected to follow the latest trends.
He is encouraged by the recent form of Anscombe, who showed his best performance after an injury in the Ospreys ’convincing victory over the Scarlets. Biggar will seek to return to action after the spell on the curb through the suspension.
For now, it seems to be a shootout between them for the starting jersey, and Shidi will also join the frame. It will be interesting to see which way Pivak will go. The sharper Anskomb or Bigar’s pragmatism.
Rice Priestland has also been named in the Six Nations team as the fourth half, but Pivak won’t need figures for this trip because he doesn’t need to deal with English players leaving in the middle of the campaign.
Gareth Davis, Kieran Hardy, Thomas Williams
Again, the half-squadron of Scrum is pretty settled, and I wouldn’t have imagined that Beer is moving too far away from what he chose in recent campaigns. But there are some points to talk about. Williams ’fitness is a challenge and he is currently on the sidelines, though hopefully he will be fit to tour.
Then consider the shape of Rice Webb. Wales № 9 has been brilliant for the Ospreys this season, though you’re afraid his goose may be cooked up with question marks about his relationship with Pivak. If Williams does not make the trip, his teammate from Cardiff and namesake Lloyd, who is finishing the season heavily, will also enter the equation.
Vin Jones, Rice Carré, Gareth Thomas, Thomas Francis, Dylan Lewis, WillGreef John
At the moment there is little competition for a t-shirt with his head down, and Carre has really shown good performances over the last few weeks. It will be interesting to see if Pivak will go for it in the first test, but most likely a threesome with a relaxed head will be the established order. Nicki Smith was doing well for the Ospreys, but seems to have proved short-sighted.
Injuries hit the tense group, but Francis ’first choice remained in shape and regularly plays for the Ospreys, so he will go on tour ready for the start. In recent weeks Lewis has not been too convincing, while John has spent some time playing for Llanelli RFC this season.
However, Leon Brown is currently struggling to recover from a nerve injury in his shoulder, and Samson Lee is also injured. If Pivak wanted to experiment, he might be persuaded to take young Scarlett Harry O’Connor with a high rating, although it will almost certainly be related to development, and he is unlikely to see any action. Ospreys supporter Tom Bot is also now qualified in the Welsh.
Ryan Elias, Davy Lake, Bradley Roberts
The figures are expected to be withdrawn this summer. The only focus here is Eliot Dee.
He is returning from injury on Friday night to face Cardiff for the Dragons, and he could make his way ahead of Roberts with a decent end to the season.
All the same, Dee probably brings a little more to the party, but fitness is a concern.
Will Rowlands, Adam Byrd, Alan Vin Jones, Ben Carter, Duffy Jenkins, Seb Davis
Injuries need to be considered here when Rowlands are currently moving away from the shoulder problem, but hopefully that won’t stop him from traveling to South Africa.
On the other hand, it is worth considering whether the best summer trip to South Africa for skipper Jones. If nothing else, the last 12 months have shown us signs of his vulnerability, and injuries have ruined his season. He ends the season with a series of games for the Ospreys, but when it comes to getting him to France in 2023, will a tough trio of trials against the Springboks help or hinder?
Carter is highly regarded in the setup, and further impact here will be key to its development.
Like Conbir, Jenkins is a real dummy, but there has been a lot of speculation about calling the young teenager Exeter Chiefs. The 19-year-old was getting some time to play at Sandy Park, although head coach Rob Baxter warned not to call him too early.
Again, if he had been involved in the setup, it would most likely have been driven by development rather than face the Springboks.
Seb Davis of Cardiff will be the favorite to play the hybrid flanker role that Pivak likes.
Josh Navidi, Thein Basham, Jack Morgan, Ben Fry, James Rati, Taulupe Falet
It looks like Ross Mariarty will join Justin Tipuric in his unavailability, which is a pretty big blow. Mariarti’s abrasiveness and physicality are exactly what is needed, and a partnership with Navidi would be ideal.
This is likely to lead to the fact that this summer a man from Cardiff will appear on the deaf side, leaving the skirmish between Morgan and Bessham on the open side. The latter is the current president, but the former has been in shape for his region recently and they have contrasting styles. This is a tough call.
After Conbir and Jenkins, newcomer “Dragons” Fry could be the third option Pivak turns to.
He is interesting. Beer will need bodies on this trip, and Fry, though still young, has the raw materials, has already been prompted to break into the test arena. He does uncompromising things well and was impressive during Dragons ’tortuous tour of South Africa a few weeks ago.
Because Alice Jenkins and Dan Lydia don’t have enough playing time, Fry could be an option for his development, if nothing else. Rati deserves a recall and probably a few minutes on the trip, and Faletov’s inclusion is obvious.