Winger George North has returned to the Wales squad for the first time since a serious knee injury in April last year as coach Wayne Pivac named a 33-player selection on Wednesday for the three-Test tour to South Africa in July.
North, who has also been used at outside centre, missed the British & Irish Lions series against the Springboks as he sat out almost a year.
The 30-year-old’s injury ruled him out of contention for the British and Irish Lions’ tour of South Africa last year and this term’s Six Nations campaign with Wales. North’s previous appearance for Wales came against France in Paris in March 2021.
That is despite the fact that Alun Wyn Jones is part of the squad, with Pivac keen to ease the responsibility on the world’s most capped player as he comes back from a long lay-off of his own.
Pivac said: “We’ve had some players come back from an injury like George North, so that’s exciting for the squad. Some players have been ruled out through injury, so there’s naturally going to be change there. Then we’ve looked at players’ form, who we are playing, where we’re playing – we have two games at altitude – and what our gameplan will be when considering selection.
“Dan Biggar is named captain. We’ve obviously got great leadership in the group with Alun Wyn and Dan. Dan did well in the Six Nations, and Al has come back from a pretty big lay-off. He’s had a little bit of rugby, and we want him to hit his straps as a second row and be the best player he can be and focus on playing. He’ll lead naturally anyway, but certainly, he’s looking forward to that challenge.”
George North will solve the defensive issues
In North’s absence since he sustained knee damage playing against Cardiff in April last year, Pivac has used five players at outside centre over 12 games. It has been a merry-go-round in a position which had appeared settled before the Test centurion sustained his injury.
But he is starting to move up the gears again. After coming off the bench for the Ospreys against the Scarlets last month, it needed brick-wall defence to hold him up on the line, and he also made a lovely outside break which showcased the pace of the wingman that he has been for most of his professional career. Against the Dragons, there was a solid 80 minutes banked, too.
Wales squad for South Africa tour
Forwards: Rhys Carre (Cardiff Rugby), Wyn Jones (Scarlets), Gareth Thomas (Ospreys), Ryan Elias (Scarlets), Dewi Lake (Ospreys), Sam Parry (Ospreys), Leon Brown (Dragons), Tomas Francis (Ospreys), Dillon Lewis (Cardiff Rugby), Adam Beard (Ospreys), Ben Carter (Dragons), Alun Wyn Jones (Ospreys), Will Rowlands (Dragons), Taine Basham (Dragons), Taulupe Faletau (Bath), Dan Lydiate (Ospreys), Josh Navidi (Cardiff), James Ratti (Cardiff), Tommy Reffell (Leicester).
Backs: Gareth Davies (Scarlets), Kieran Hardy (Scarlets), Tomos Williams (Cardiff), Gareth Anscombe (Ospreys), Dan Biggar (Northampton Saints), Rhys Patchell (Scarlets), George North (Ospreys), Nick Tompkins (Saracens), Owen Watkin (Ospreys), Johnny Williams (Scarlets), Josh Adams (Cardiff), Alex Cuthbert (Ospreys), Louis Rees-Zammit (Gloucester), Liam Williams (Scarlets).