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Casualties mounting up for Wales


Revenge is not on Rob Howley's mind ahead of Wales' match against South Africa

Revenge is not on Rob Howley's mind ahead of Wales' match against South Africa

Revenge is not on Rob Howley's mind ahead of Wales' match against South Africa

Wales have been left with a hefty casualty count that could affect selection plans for next Saturday's autumn Test series finale against South Africa.

Uncapped Scarlets prop Rob Evans has been called up to train with the national squad, while Wales head coach Warren Gatland has put back his scheduled team announcement from Tuesday until Thursday.

Loosehead prop is a particular area of concern for Gatland and his coaching staff.

Bath's Paul James is unavailable as South Africa's Millennium Stadium visit falls outside the International Rugby Board autumn Test window - the Gloucester pair of hooker Richard Hibbard and fly-half James Hook are also in that category - while James' fellow prop Nicky Smith has a pectoral muscle injury and Gethin Jenkins is recovering from hamstring trouble.

And behind the scrum, assessments will need to be made on full-back Leigh Halfpenny, wing George North and scrum-half Rhys Webb, who all suffered knocks during Wales' 34-16 defeat against world champions New Zealand two days ago.

"Nicky Smith has got a pectoral injury and we are awaiting results of a scan," Wales assistant coach Rob Howley said.

"Gethin Jenkins will be integrated into rugby training tomorrow and Rob Evans has been called up from the Scarlets for training today and tomorrow.

"Monday is that sort of day in terms of X-rays, scans and treatment and trying to assess where our players are at.

"Also, George North will hopefully start his concussion protocol either today or tomorrow; Rhys Webb came off with a groin strain, and he is being assessed and will hopefully be available on the weekend.

"Leigh has taken a little bit of a bump to his shoulder. 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."

Wales led the All Blacks until 11 minutes from time, having put themselves within sight of claiming a first victory against them since 1953.

But a blistering finish by the visitors - they scored 19 unanswered points between the 69th and 76th minutes - ensured another frustrating tale of what might have been.

"It was probably one of the best Test matches I have witnessed, although the result in the last 11 minutes went away from us," Howley added.

"In terms of the attitude of both sets of players, the physicality, the skill-sets, it was probably one of the best Test matches in the last decade at the Millennium Stadium.

"We've gone toe-to-toe with clearly the best side in world rugby, and we were leading on 69 minutes.

"But what you are when you are the world's best is that you go back to your game, and that is what they went back to in the last 10 minutes in terms of their ability to kick to space and to find space.

"We kept their 10, 12 and 13 quiet throughout the game. I thought our line speed in defence was fantastic, and we didn't allow them to get away from us when the game became that arm wrestle between 45 and 65 minutes.

"But ultimately, we all know a game is of 80 minutes, and we have come up short once again."

The challenge now awaiting Wales is countering South Africa's trademark physical power as they looking to erase memories of a shattering 31-30 defeat against them in Nelspruit five months ago when Wales led throughout a gripping contest, but were then undone by a last-gasp penalty try

"They are still a world-class side, very physical," Howley said.

"They have got world-class players, they have got a world-class driving lineout in (Victor) Matfield and (Eben) Etzebeth, and while they might be missing a couple of their back-row, the strength in depth they have is something we've all witnessed during the past 18 months, in particular.

"Our cup is always half-full. I don't want to use the word revenge. This is another Test match. That Test match (Nelspruit) has gone.

"We always look forward. We will learn from the weekend against New Zealand and try to implement a strategy against South Africa.

"I honestly believe that what happened in Nelspruit would be huge going forward to Rugby World Cup (2015).

"For the players and coaches involved for this Saturday, this is possibly what might happen in Rugby World Cup, where we've lost a game and now we are playing South Africa in the quarter-final.

"That is our motivation in terms of trying to put a script to it. It is important we front-up on the weekend, because this could be exactly the situation in September/October next year."