Walker to debut for Wales on wing vs Springboks
CARDIFF, Wales (AP) — Ospreys winger Eli Walker will make his test debut against the Springboks at Millennium Stadium on Saturday in a Wales side also featuring the return of flanker Dan Lydiate and flyhalf Rhys Priestland.
Walker fills in for British Lion Alex Cuthbert, who injured his left ankle three weekends ago. Scott Williams has come in for another Lion, Jamie Roberts, who had an ankle operation. In his first start since June 2012, Williams will partner Scarlets teammate Jonathan Davies in midfield.
Lydiate appears in an all-British Lions forward pack, but he hasn’t played for Wales also since June 2012. Priestland ruptured his Achilles tendon a week after Wales’ autumn campaign a year ago, and will run out for them for the first time since then.
Scrumhalf Mike Phillips, without a club after being dumped by Bayonne last week, also starts.
“It is great to have both Rhys and Dan back available for us,” coach Warren Gatland said on Tuesday. “Eli has impressed for his region and whilst with us, and it’s a great opportunity for him to make his mark in a very experienced side.”
South Africa will be the first of four home tests for Wales this month.
“The Springboks arrive in the U.K. off the back of their impressive Rugby Championship campaign and we know that we need to start well on Saturday,” Gatland said.
“We go into the series as Six Nations champions but we are looking forward to testing ourselves against the southern hemisphere sides and showing what we can do.”
Wales has beaten South Africa only once, in 1999.
Wales: Leigh Halfpenny, George North, Jonathan Davies, Scott Williams, Eli Walker, Rhys Priestland, Mike Phillips; Toby Faletau, Sam Warburton (captain), Dan Lydiate, Alun Wyn Jones, Bradley Davies, Adam Jones, Richard Hibbard, Gethin Jenkins. Reserves: Ken Owens, Paul James, Scott Andrews, Luke Charteris, Justin Tipuric, Lloyd Williams, James Hook, Liam Williams.