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Wales look to returning stars

Wales hope to welcome back at least one of their injured stars for next Saturday's Millennium Stadium clash against world champions South Africa.

Full-back Lee Byrne, who missed the 25-16 loss to Australia after breaking a bone in his hand, could face the Springboks. And that would also enable Wales coach Warren Gatland to move James Hook from full-back duties as Byrne's deputy, handing him a more influential role at centre or fly-half.

"We are hoping that Lee Byrne could be back and be available," said Gatland, after his team suffered a 10th defeat to Tri Nations opposition in 11 starts since he took charge almost three years ago.

Gatland will also closely assess the fitness of back-row forward Ryan Jones, another absentee against Australia due to a torn calf muscle, while Wasps number eight Andy Powell - unavailable for the Wallabies clash - can expect an official squad call-up.

Wales legend Barry John, meanwhile, has urged Gatland to change both half-backs - axing Stephen Jones and Mike Phillips - for South Africa's Cardiff visit. John believes 21-year-old Ospreys fly-half Dan Biggar should replace Jones, with Richie Rees - a try-scoring substitute against Australia - ousting Jones' fellow British and Irish Lions Test player Phillips.

"Rees, more of a darting scrum-half, offers more than Phillips, whose game has stagnated," said former Wales and Lions fly-half John, in his Wales on Sunday newspaper column. "Biggar also deserves a chance as Stephen is starting to show signs of wear and tear."

Wales have lost their last 11 Tests against the Springboks, conceding almost 370 points in the process. There is also the prospect of another disappointing Millennium Stadium crowd, something similar to the 53,000 audience - more than 20,000 under capacity - that witnessed Australia's triumph.

"I think we can just be a bit smarter in the way we play sometimes," said Wales prop Gethin Jenkins, who was instrumental in his team establishing scrummaging supremacy over a Wallabies pack outplayed in most areas.

But tries from flanker David Pocock, full-back Kurtley Beale and prop Ben Alexander - plus 10 points via the boot of wing James O'Connor - left Wales deflated.

"A lot of boys came off frustrated, but we have just got to get back to the drawing board and work hard this week," added Jenkins. "Last year (against Australia), we didn't show up at all. This time, we competed very well and we were in the game for long periods, it was just little lacks of discipline and a lack of awareness when they turned the ball over that cost us."


From Belfast Telegraph