Alun Wyn Jones has been ruled out for the rest of Wales’ autumn Tests after it was confirmed he requires surgery on the shoulder injury sustained in the defeat against the All Blacks on Saturday.
Jones, who was winning his 149th cap for Wales, a world record for a national team, went down clutching his left shoulder midway through the first half, evoking memories of the injury from which he battled back to lead the British & Irish Lions in South Africa. Wales have confirmed that the 36-year-old now faces a number of months out of action.
The flanker Ross Moriarty also requires a shoulder operation, after leaving the field in agony on Saturday following tackles by Nepo Laulala and Ethan Blackadder. The Welsh Rugby Union has confirmed that both players face “an estimated recovery period of a number of months” and have been released from the squad.
Jones was injured in the first half in Cardiff in the same shoulder the Wales captain hurt during the Lions’ match with Japan at Murrayfield four months ago. On that occasion, he made a startling recovery to captain the touring side throughout their three-Test series in South Africa.
The injuries represent a huge blow for Wales, who host the world champions, South Africa, this weekend then tackle Fiji before entertaining Australia. Wayne Pivac’s side then begin their Six Nations title defence against Ireland in Dublin on 5 February.
Taulupe Faletau has been released from the squad because of an ankle injury suffered in training at Bath, on the same day that the No 8 confirmed he will leave the club at the end of the season. Faletau, who is reportedly set to join Cardiff in the summer, has not played this season and only linked up with the Wales squad on Monday.
There was some positive injury news for Pivac on Tuesday, with Liam Williams and Ellis Jenkins both in contention to play South Africa this weekend. “Liam trained yesterday and today … he is fit and available as far as I am concerned,” said the Wales assistant coach, Neil Jenkins.
The Cardiff flanker Shane Lewis-Hughes and the uncapped Ospreys forward Rhys Davies have been called up, while the Cardiff centre Willis Halaholo will rejoin the squad for Saturday’s game having spent 10 days in self-isolation.
Nienaber makes changes in bid for Cardiff win
The South Africa coach, Jacques Nienaber, has made four changes to the team that defeated the All Blacks in their most recent match, two of them forced by injury and unavailability.
Damian Willemse will make his fourth start at full-back in place of a rested Willie Le Roux in a move Nienaber described as “a little side project”. Jesse Kriel takes over on the wing from Sbu Nkosi, who is stranded in South Africa awaiting his visa, while Herschel Jantjies starts at scrum-half in place of the injured Faf de Klerk.
“Damian and Herschel have featured off the bench a fair bit and this is an opportunity to give them a chance to start as we look to build our squad depth ahead of the 2023 Rugby World Cup,” Nienaber said. “If we had to play a World Cup final on the weekend, we would probably select Willie because of his experience.
“But this is an ideal situation to allow Damian to settle himself into the full-back position. It’s a little side project. We always want to win but we want to develop and transform and this is an ideal opportunity for us to get some experience into guys on this end-of-year tour.”
The Springboks are also without the winger Cheslin Kolbe and the world player of the year, Pieter-Steph du Toit, due to injury for their British tour, which also features matches against Scotland and England.
Nienaber is expecting a much-changed Wales team as his side go in search of a first win at the Principality Stadium for eight years. “Wales is going to be a nice challenge for us, especially if you look at our record here in Cardiff,” he said. “Because they are physical, they will go toe to toe with us in that department and you will see there are no changes to our starting pack that beat New Zealand in the Rugby Championship. We will have to be at our best physically if we want to get a result this week.”