Rees feeling confident
Welsh skipper taking heart from forwards display against Wallabies
Last Updated: 12/11/10 11:51am
Rees: Forwards battle
Wales skipper Matthew Rees insists his side will be taking a lot of confidence from their forward dominance against Australia last week as they face world champions South Africa in Cardiff.
Rees knows the Springboks will offer much greater resistance up front than the Wallabies, and accepts it will take a huge effort to get anywhere near as much success as last week.
Wales coach Warren Gatland has made just one change up-front, and that is an enforced switch as injured flanker Sam Warburton is replaced by his 96 times-capped Cardiff Blues colleague Martyn Williams.
Rees says Wales have taken a lot of confidence from their display last weekend, and hope to use that to earn a win against the World Cup holders.
"We've taken a lot of confidence from last week," Rees said. "We've been criticised in the past for not matching these Tri Nations teams up front, and I thought we put that to bed last Saturday.
"It's important now that we continue it right through to the end of this autumn campaign. It's going to be a different challenge this week, and it's about making sure we have got our own house in order."
Rees leads a side that includes a recall for fit-again full-back Lee Byrne, which releases James Hook to play in midfield alongside Tom Shanklin.
The big selection news though was a place on the wing for 18-year-old Scarlets George North, who has only played seven games of senior rugby but now has to mark Springboks speed machine Bryan Habana.
But at 6ft 4in and 16 stone 7lbs, North has been backed to not only look after himself this weekend, but also carve out a long international career.
Scarlets head coach Nigel Davies said: "George has got real ability and talent as a player, but equally has an intelligent and hard-working approach.
"I have been really impressed with the way he has conducted himself at the Scarlets, and he has the potential to be a very special player."
Wales have lost their last 11 Tests against South Africa, a sequence stretching back to 1999, and their attacking paucity against Australia instilled no real confidence to suggest that demoralising run can end this weekend.
But with Byrne at full-back and Hook oozing class in midfield - plus the largely unknown commodity of North - Gatland's men might finally crack it.
"The coaches have told the players they have a licence to be creative, to be confident with the ball in hand, to off-load and to be positive in attack," said Gatland.
"We worked hard last week ensuring we were combative up-front. We put a huge emphasis on forward play in training, and we now know we can bring that kind of game into play when necessary.
"We were happy with aspects of our performance against Australia, but you can't work on everything in just a two week build-up, and we have been able to introduce new aspects this week.
"With Lee Byrne back at full-back and James Hook hopefully with the ball in his hands more often at centre, we have plenty of experience and guile in our back-line, and we are simply looking for the same again up front."