LOTS of Welsh shoulders sagged when Alun Wyn Jones was helped from the Principality Stadium pitch last weekend but the injury misfortune has presented an opportunity for one man.

Will Rowlands moved to the Dragons in the summer to keep his Wales career alive, now he's set to be a leading figure.

With Jones out of the autumn series and set to miss the Six Nations, Rowlands becomes a key figure next to Adam Beard in the boilerhouse.

The 30-year-old would not have been eligible for Test rugby if he had decided to stay at Wasps but now he has a golden chance to announce himself on the big stage.

Rowlands will go up against the formidable Springboks this evening then hope to add his bulk to the pack against Fiji and Australia to earn his spot in the Six Nations.

Wales will miss Jones but the Dragons man hopes to soften the blow.


Dragons lock Will Rowlands is dejected after a New Zealand try against Wales

Dragons lock Will Rowlands is dejected after a New Zealand try against Wales


"I don't see it as trying to fill those shoes, they're obviously big shoes to fill," said Rowlands, who will win his 12th cap against the world champions.

"I think some of the things he brings to the side are leadership and experience but also a lot of physicality in how he plays the game and that's something I like to think I can bring to the team so I'll just try to do that on the weekend.

"In terms of leadership there are plenty of experienced guys who can take that mantle from him. Jonathan Davies is taking up the captaincy and he did a great job for us doing that in the summer."

The towering lock will be to the fore against a brutal Boks front eight that is backed up by even more power on the bench. The ultimate test?

"Yes, I think it is. It is very different to playing New Zealand," said Rowlands. "Their traditional strengths are big forward pack, big aerial game, scrum, lineout - it will be a challenge in that area."

Rowlands got a taste of that challenge on club duty when outmuscled by the Stormers at Rodney Parade in the United Rugby Championship.

The South African club side inflicted some bruises but things go up several notches against Etzebeth, de Jager & Co.


Dragons lock Will Rowlands carrying hard for Wales against New Zealand

Dragons lock Will Rowlands carrying hard for Wales against New Zealand


"They are world champions for a reason. I think ultimately that's what sport is - it's about competing," he said.

"When you do get to the top level there's a lot of pressure and you do need to get results but at the root of it all it began as a means of enjoyment and I do take enjoyment from trying to compete with the best.

"Maybe the micro-moments can be hard and can be painful and you feel them afterwards but the process itself and the whole experience is very worthwhile and more so the higher level you go to."

Rowlands is joined in the XV by Dragons back rowers Taine Basham and Aaron Wainwright with lock Ben Carter on the bench.

Wales: Johnny McNicholl (Scarlets); Louis Rees-Zammit (Gloucester), Jonathan Davies (Scarlets - captain), Nick Tompkins (Saracens), Josh Adams (Cardiff); Dan Biggar (Northampton), Tomos Williams (Cardiff); Rhys Carré (Cardiff), Ryan Elias (Scarlets), Tomas Francis (Ospreys), Will Rowlands (Dragons), Adam Beard (Ospreys), Ellis Jenkins (Cardiff Rugby), Taine Basham (Dragons), Aaron Wainwright (Dragons).

Replacements: Bradley Roberts (Ulster), Wyn Jones (Scarlets), WillGriff John (Scarlets), Ben Carter (Dragons), Seb Davies (Cardiff), Gareth Davies (Scarlets), Gareth Anscombe (Ospreys), Liam Williams (Scarlets)