Hadleigh Parkes could make Wales debut against South Africa

29 November 2017 01:24

Hadleigh Parkes looks set to make his Wales debut in Saturday's autumn series finale against South Africa.

The New Zealand-born Scarlets centre completes a three-year Wales residency qualification this week, making him eligible to face the Springboks.

And Wales head coach Warren Gatland could opt for an all-Scarlets midfield, pairing Parkes and Scott Williams together, although Ospreys prospect Owen Watkin would also potentially be in the equation.

Gloucester back Owen Williams, who filled the inside-centre role to impressive effect against Australia and New Zealand, and Harlequins centre Jamie Roberts have both returned to their clubs as Saturday's clash falls outside World Rugby's autumn international window.

England's Premiership clubs have a blanket approach not to release players for those games, with Ba th fly-half Rhys Priestland and Exeter prop Tomas Francis also available for domestic duty this weekend.

That policy remains unchanged and in force this week, but Bath number eight Taulupe Faletau is with the Wales squad and is available for Test team selection.

It is understood that Faletau has a clause in his club contract giving him full release for Wales, but Bath can still expect a fine after Northampton took a £60,000 hit for releasing Wales wing George North to face Australia outside the 2013 autumn window.

Dragons prop Leon Brown, who endured a difficult full Test debut opposite Georgia's powerful scrummagers 11 days ago, is expected to replace Francis, with his Dragons colleague Cory Hill taking over from injured lock Jake Ball.

A start for 30-year-old Parkes would make him the headline selection, though, and Wales assistant coach Neil Jenkins said: "He has been a great addition to the squad.

"He's got quite a few strengths. He carries well, he is defensively very good.

"The Scarlets keep ball in hand well and put people through holes, he's got that subtlety to his game. The way we are trying to play, he is a big bonus for us.

"I think he's a 12 at this moment in time, but I've no doubt he could play 13 if we need him."

Parkes' Scarlets team-mate and scrum-half Gareth Davies could also make the starting XV after replacing Rhys Webb against New Zealand when Webb suffered a head knock that forced him off early in the game.

Assessing the task against South Africa, Davies said: "We all know what South Africa bring - they are very big and physical.

"It is a game we need to win - there is a bit of pressure on us now.

"If we beat South Africa on Saturday, it will be the third time in a row (at home). No other Wales team has done that, so that is in the back of our minds and that's the target.

"They have improved a lot in the last 12 months. They've had some big victories in the last couple of months. It is going to be a very tough game, but we have got plenty of quality and I think we are good enough to beat them.

"South Africa have got some great individuals, but we have just got to concentrate on our own game, like we've been doing, and keep playing the good rugby we are trying to produce."

Source: PA