What the Welsh newspapers are saying on Wednesday about the Test against the Springboks.
On Tuesday, Bok assistant coach Matt Proudfoot made the point that Cardiff is a rugby city and that the Welsh people have a great passion for the sport. Indeed, there’s always a festive atmosphere in and around the Millennium Stadium on match days. This coming Saturday should be no different.
There’s been little hype around this contest in the local press over the past two days, though. The focus has been on Taulupe Faletau securing an unexpected release from English club Bath, even though this weekend’s Test will take place outside of the international window.
The Welsh papers have made much about Rhys Webb and Scott Williams returning from injury, and about New Zealand-born Hadleigh Parkes qualifying for selection through residency as late as this Friday. Parkes played Super Rugby for the Kings in 2013 and the Hurricanes in 2014 before moving to Wales. He looks set to start at No 12 against the Boks.
There doesn’t appear to be much local interest in the Boks. Five people attended the South African press conference on Tuesday. Three were South African journalists, while a BBC Wales cameraman and reporter made an appearance. Two British journalists made it to the briefing with Allister Coetzee on Monday.
Today’s Western Mail features a small piece on the Boks detailing the return of star hooker Malcolm Marx from injury and Beast Mtawarira’s ongoing struggles with a groin problem.
Respected Welsh scribe Simon Thomas expects coach Warren Gatland to retain the same back row that fronted New Zealand last week. Bath, who also have Bok flank Francois Louw on their books, could cop a big fine for releasing Faletau.
‘Taulupe Faletau is available to pack down at No 8 as he has not returned to Bath, so it’s set to be the same starting back row with Josh Navidi and Aaron Shingler on the flanks,’ Thomas writes.
‘This weekend’s game is outside the official Test window and Premiership Rugby policy is that players should not be released to other countries for such matches. The fact Faletau has stayed with Wales has led to the assumption he must have full international release written into his Bath contract. That could see the west country club punished in the form of a fine, just as Northampton were for releasing George North to Wales against PRL policy back in 2013.’
On Parkes’ likely debut for Wales, Thomas writes: ‘His experience of playing alongside Scott Williams for the Scarlets may give him the edge ahead of young Owen Watkin.’
In the same paper, Rob Lloyd charts Parkes’ journey since arriving in Wales in on 2 December 2014.
British & Irish Lions legend Neil Jenkins, who is now a Wales assistant coach, is quoted as saying that Parkes will add something with his strong ball-carrying and defence.
‘The way we’re trying to play, he’s a big bonus for us,’ says Jenkins.