Alun Wyn Jones likely to captain Wales on South Africa tour
Ospreys lock Alun Wyn-Jones is likely to captain Wales on their summer tour of South Africa
Alun Wyn Jones is likely to captain Wales on their summer tour of South Africa as head coach Warren Gatland opts not to rest his star names.
The news will not please Jones’s Ospreys bosses ahead of this weekend’s Judgement Day double header at the Millennium Stadium, with the region leading the calls for certain Welsh players to be rested this summer.
The 28-year-old lock led the British and Irish Lions to victory in their final match of the 2013 series in Australia, with Sam Warburton injured.
He also captained Wales in this year’s Six Nations opening win against Italy and is favourite to continue the role with Warburton out with another shoulder injury.
Wales will take a 31-man squad to face two Test matches against South Africa as well as a warm-up match against Eastern Province Kings in June.
But with captain Warburton and goal-kicking machine Leigh Halfpenny already ruled out, and doubts over influential front-rowers Richard Hibbard and Adam Jones, Gatland insists he won’t be taking a second-string side into battle against formidable opponents.
“We are going to do ourselves a disservice if we go to South Africa cold,” Gatland said.
“If we rest three or four players, go there and get beaten, it’s not good for us.
“We have got players coming back, like Ian Evans from suspension and Bradley Davies from injury, and Jake Ball has been a great find for us.
“We have got to give ourselves the best possible opportunity we can against South Africa so we will be fully-loaded.”
Last month, Gatland mooted the possibility of a ‘Probables vs Possibles’ trial match on 30 May before the squad is announced if none of the Welsh regions make it to next month’s Pro12 play-offs.
But the Kiwi believes Sunday’s derby day is the perfect chance to assess the majority of the Welsh talent available to him this summer.
“Judgement Day is the first trial ahead of us picking the squad for the trip to South Africa,” Gatland added.
“As far as we are concerned in the Wales management it’s a chance for players to put a hand up and show why they should be in the squad.
“There’s some fantastic duels in prospect with young pretenders like Dan Baker set to be up against Toby Faletau at number 8 and a fit-again Matthew Rees locking horns with Ken Owens at hooker.
“We will be looking to take our strongest available squad to South Africa but eye-catching performances between now and then could be the difference between going and not.
“I’m really excited about Judgement Day because derbies tend to bring the best out of players. They’re as close as you can get to an unofficial trial.”
Judgement Day II on Sunday 20 April sees Cardiff Blues play the Scarlets and Newport Gwent Dragons face the Ospreys in back-to-back Pro12 matches.