Wales delay team announcement for South Africa over injury concerns

Assistant coach Rob Howley confirms a number of players are being monitored after New Zealand defeat

By Gareth Llewellyn

Warren Gatland will delay the announcement of his Wales team to face South Africa until Thursday.

The Wales head coach has a number of injury concerns in the squad after last weekend’s bruising 34-16 defeat to New Zealand at the Millennium Stadium promoting a 48-hour delay on the usual team announcement.

“Monday is that sort of day in terms of X-rays, scans and treatment, and trying to assess where our players are at,” said Wales assistant coach Rob Howley.

“Also, George North will hopefully start his concussion protocol either today or tomorrow.”

With the final match of the Dove Men Series falling outside of the World Rugby international Test window, Wales will also be missing three of their England-based players with hooker Richard Hibbard and utility-back James Hook returning to Gloucester Rugby and Paul James returning to Bath Rugby.

The loss of James means Wales have a mini crisis at loosehead prop ahead of the Springboks’ visit with Ospreys’ Nicky Smith nursing a pectoral injury, while Cardiff Blues prop Gethin Jenkins missed the All Blacks defeat with a hamstring injury, and is not due to return to training until Tuesday, leading Gatland to call up Scarlets prop Rob Evans, who was solid at the set piece against Glasgow Warriors on Friday night.

Ospreys Scrum-half Rhys Webb is being assessed for a groin injury, which could bring about a return to the starting XV of veteran Mike Phillips.

Full-back Leigh Halfpenny has a shoulder problem, although it is not thought to be serious, while Northampton Saints wing George North is set to undergo graduated return-to-play protocols.

“Leigh has taken a little bit of a bump to his shoulder,” Howley added.

“He is being assessed, but we are hopeful that he will be able to start training tomorrow. It is not major at this moment in time.”

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