Dragons lock Cory Hill and Cardiff Blues flanker Ellis Jenkins have been named as co-captains for Wales’ Test matches against South Africa and Argentina next month.
Wales head coach Warren Gatland has rested all but two players – wing George North and back-row forward Ross Moriarty – who were original British and Irish Lions selections in New Zealand last summer.
It means that the likes of regular Wales skipper Alun Wyn Jones, number eight Taulupe Faletau, flanker Justin Tipuric, fly-half Dan Biggar, wing Liam Williams and full-back Leigh Halfpenny are among those who take a breather.
Gatland has named one uncapped player – Cardiff Blues scrum-half Tomos Williams – in a 31-man squad.
Wales face the Springboks in Washington DC on June 2, then travel to South America for appointments with the Pumas on June 9 and 16.
It is an important staging post on the way to Wales’ 2019 World Cup campaign in Japan as Gatland looks to further develop his squad depth.
Experienced Bath lock Luke Charteris has gained a recall, while it is a major opportunity for Jenkins, who is considered by many as a future Wales skipper, to make his mark.
Gatland said: “We have picked Cory and Ellis as co-captains.
“They are both leaders and have experience captaining at regional level, so this is an opportunity for them to build on that.
“This summer is another step on our 2019 World Cup path and a great opportunity to build on recent campaigns.
“It is a great opportunity for this squad to build on their experience, get Test match game time under their belt and face Rugby Championship opposition.
“We have picked a squad of 31 to try and give players as much game time as possible.
“It shows the depth we have built in recent years that we have just one uncapped player in the squad in Tomos, but he has been in a number of squads so knows the environment well.”
Wales squad for Argentina tour and Test match against South Africa in Washington DC
Backs: A Davies (Scarlets), G Davies (Scarlets), T Williams (Cardiff Blues), G Anscombe (Cardiff Blues), R Patchell (Scarlets), H Parkes (Scarlets), O Watkin (Ospreys), S Williams (Scarlets), J Adams (Worcester), H Amos (Dragons), S Evans (Scarlets), G North (Northampton), T Prydie (Scarlets).
Forwards: R Evans (Scarlets), W Jones (Scarlets), N Smith (Ospreys), T Francis (Exeter), S Lee (Scarlets), D Lewis (Cardiff Blues), E Dee (Dragons), R Elias (Scarlets), A Beard (Ospreys), B Davies (Ospreys), S Davies (Cardiff Blues), L Charteris (Bath), C Hill (Dragons, co-captain), J Davies (Scarlets), E Jenkins (Cardiff Blues, co-captain), R Moriarty (Gloucester), J Navidi (Cardiff Blues), A Shingler (Scarlets).
Fulham and Jacksonville Jaguars owner Shahid Khan has made an offer for Wembley Stadium, which is being considered by the Football Association’s board, with an outline agreement already said to be in place.
RFU chief executive Steve Brown insists Twickenham will never be sold, in the process stressing there will be no football played at the ground, including by Chelsea when they look for a temporary home while Stamford Bridge is redeveloped.
“It’s not something that is on our radar and we have no consideration of selling Twickenham or even entertaining those thoughts. We haven’t been approached at all, either,” Brown said.
“We are committed to Rugby here – big and small. As well as the NFL. And at the moment, we don’t have any plans for football at all.
When pressed on the possibility of hosting Chelsea games, Brown said: “Just to be really clear – we have an arrangement and an agreement with the local authority that we will stick to the sports that I have mentioned. Football isn’t on our radar for this stadium.”
I don’t really see much of a downside to @FA selling Wembley. The old Wembley was never owned by the FA and we won the World Cup there. Bags of money going into grassroots is way more important than owning a load of concrete. 2 steps back, 39 steps forward.— Gary Lineker (@GaryLineker) April 27, 2018
One of England’s four warm-up matches for next year’s Rugby World Cup – the opposition for which has yet to be finalised – is to be staged in either Manchester or Newcastle.
“We are looking between the north west and north east. Both present great situations and we have tested both in the World Cup,” Brown said.
“We had a fantastic response to the World Cup game in the north west. Lots of people want to buy a ticket – they just won’t have to pay as much for a hotel and train.”
Meanwhile the RFU believes that England will be able to take Brad Shields to South Africa under the umbrella of World Rugby’s regulation nine – which dictates that players must be released for international Rugby – if Jones decides to include him the squad he names on May 10.
Shields, the Wasps-bound Hurricanes captain, would use the Super Rugby break to begin a Test career made possible by his English parents amid an attempt from the New Zealand Rugby Union to prevent his involvement.
“Regulation nine is clear and understood by everybody. If we find ourselves in that situation (where there is a dispute with the NZRU) we will rely on the World Rugby regulation,” Brown said.
“I think we shouldn’t constrain ourselves from a performance perspective by not picking those players.”
Australia and New Zealand’s women’s rugby teams will play showcase Tests ahead of this year’s Bledisloe Cup matches in Sydney and Auckland, officials said Tuesday, hailing a “pivotal moment” for the women’s game.
“This is another pivotal moment for women’s fifteens rugby,” Rugby Australia chief executive Raelene Castle said in a statement.
“Securing this year’s two-Test series is another important marker as we prepare our bid to host the next women’s Rugby World Cup in 2021.”
The announcement comes as women’s rugby grows in popularity, with the world champion Black Ferns set to receive professional contracts and the inaugural women’s Super W league recently concluded in Australia.
NEWS | New Zealand fans will get their first taste of the World Champion Black Ferns in action this year when they take on Australia in two tantalising trans-Tasman double header Test matches in August.— Black Ferns (@BlackFerns) April 24, 2018
READ: https://t.co/gVXMNLN4Kb#BlackFerns #TeamAllBlacks pic.twitter.com/0Uwdk1ZfHH
The Sydney Test will be the Wallaroos’ 50th, and will also be the first time they have played in a double-header fixture with the Wallabies at home.
“Having our two top sides take on the Aussies in the same night is something special and to be able to schedule double Test matches both home and away is a real bonus,” New Zealand Rugby chief executive Steve Tew said.
Australia and New Zealand first played double-header men’s and women’s Tests in Auckland in 2016, but this will be the first time they have held such fixtures back to back.
The Wallabies last won the trans-Tasman Bledisloe Cup in 2002 against the dominant All Blacks, while the Wallaroos are yet to lift the Laurie O’Reilly Cup.
New Zealand Rugby is set to announce the first group of Black Ferns players who will receive professional contracts ahead of their training camp in mid-June.
Australia and New Zealand’s men’s teams will also play a third Bledisloe Cup fixture in Tokyo on October 27.