Here are the latest rugby headlines for Tuesday July 20 as the countdown continues to the first Lions Test.
Alun Wyn declared fit for first Test
Lions defence coach Steve Tandy says captain Alun Wyn Jones is in contention to lead the side into Saturday’s first Test with South Africa following his remarkable recovery from a shoulder injury.
Jones returned to the tour just three weeks after sustaining a dislocated shoulder in the opening warm-up clash with Japan at Murrayfield on June 26.
The 35-year old was expected to be sidelined for the entire tour but has subsequently made an astonishing comeback, featuring for 30 minutes off the bench in Cape Town during Saturday’s win over the Stormers.
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And Tandy has now confirmed that Jones is available for this weekend’s opening meeting with South Africa at the same venue.
“Al, historically, has done some pretty special things,” Tandy said of the man he used to coach at the Ospreys.
“He’s fit, he’s raring to go. It was only three weeks ago when he was injured but you see the training he’s been doing, he keeps himself in absolutely great shape, so there’ll be no issues there.
“He’s got unbelievable experience and his leadership qualities are outstanding as well.”
South Africa still waiting on Kolisi
Meanwhile, South Africa are facing an anxious wait on the fitness of their captain Siya Kolisi.
The skipper has spent the last 10 days in isolation after testing positive for Covid-19, and was among six players allowed to join the rest of the squad in Cape Town on Monday.
Kolisi still needs to undergo further tests, with South Africa due to name their team today.
They have brought forward the announcement in what is being seen as a show of strength.
While hoping Kolisi gets the green light, Springboks assistant coach Mzwandile Stick is confident South Africa could cope without him as well.
“We are in a good space,” Stick said. “We are almost back to 100% to how we want things to be done in a Test week. [With Siya] we wouldn’t do anything stupid.
“We’re hoping to get good news but if not we’ve got great players in our squad. Even if Siya is not fit to play, we trust the other guys in that position.
“We’ve got great leaders in our team. If he’s not cleared, we’ve got a couple of guys who can do that job.”
Pollard hits back at ‘boring’ jibes
Handre Pollard, who could well take over the captaincy if Kolisi doesn’t make it, has launched a staunch defence of the Springboks after accusations over their ‘boring’ style.
Former coach Peter de Villiers made the accusation recently when discussing the Springboks’ tactical approach, but Pollard insists they won’t be going out to win any plaudits for their style of rugby.
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“For me, it’s the most beautiful thing in the world… apart from my wife,’ said Pollard when asked about the criticisms of his side’s style.
“It’s the way we were brought up and for me personally, it’s a thing of beauty. Throwing a ball around is nice for the people watching on TV, but for me it’s beautiful.
“I don’t think it’s a big secret, what’s coming.
“Two sides who play pretty similar games and it’s going to come down to physicality, set-pieces and the basics. It always comes back to that when it’s big Test match rugby.”
Dragons snap up Fiji prop
Dragons have completed the signing of Fiji tight-head Mesake Doge from Top 14 outfit Brive.
The 28-year old has won four caps for his country after making his debut against Georgia back in 2016, and arrives at Rodney Parade after starting the Tests against New Zealand earlier this month.
Confirming the move, Director of Rugby Dean Ryan said: “We’re pleased to sign Mesake and look forward to him linking up with us in the coming weeks.
“He’s impressed in the recent Test series with the All Blacks and is determined to come to Wales and develop even further and make a big impression with us.”
Doge himself said: “After speaking with Dean and the coaching team, I was very impressed with their vision for the region and their plans for my development.
“I can’t wait to begin my journey with Dragons.”