Warren Gatland: Hit out will enable Dan Lydiate to fire against Boks

Free Press Series: Dan Lydiate is tackled by Francois Louw (2397191) Dan Lydiate is tackled by Francois Louw (2397191)

WARREN Gatland believes leading from the front in Wales' midweek warm-up game is vital if defensive powerhouse Dan Lydiate is to chop down the Springboks.

The former Newport Gwent Dragons blindside will play his first rugby for five weeks when he captains the tourists against Eastern Province Kings tomorrow evening (kick-off 6pm).

The 26-year-old missed the end of Racing Metro's season as well as the Probables versus Possibles trial because of a hamstring strain.

Lydiate needs some game time ahead of Saturday's first Test against South Africa in Durban and will have a four-day turnaround along with fellow inked-in starter Alex Cuthbert, who will line up on the right wing at Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium.

The blindside flanker will be a key figure against the strong-running Springboks and Gatland believes he will rise to the occasion when leading Wales for the first time.

He said: "He did a good job captaining the Lions (against Melbourne Rebels last summer) and I am sure he will do so again. He needs some rugby and has been unfortunate.

"He was playing some good rugby towards the end of the Six Nations and was getting some more rugby with Racing Metro, but he pulled his hamstring. But he is a guy who gets better with rugby under his belt."

The nine players to sit out the game against the Kings are captain Alun Wyn Jones, number eight Taulupe Faletau, loosehead Gethin Jenkins, hooker Ken Owens, tighthead Adam Jones, scrum-half Mike Phillips, fly-half Dan Biggar and centres Jamie Roberts and Jonathan Davies.

There are first starts in a Wales jersey for Matthew Morgan at full-back, Jordan Williams on the wing and Steve Shingler in midfield with scrum-half Gareth Davies set for his bow off the bench.

It will be hard for the midweek team to force their way into the Test XV but there are places in the 23 up for grabs.

Gatland said: "It's an opportunity to see a number of the squad pull on the Wales jersey and represent their country and see how they handle the game and the pressure.

"We know how tough the next few weeks are going to be and that starts on Tuesday and we have to be prepared for a big game and hit the ground running.

"We were keen to have this match, to experience a short turnaround and replicate what we will face at the World Cup next year.

"That preparation is well under way and Tuesday is a great opportunity for players who have impressed this season and at the trial to stake their claim on the international stage."

Wales: M Morgan (Ospreys), A Cuthbert (Cardiff Blues), C Allen (Cardiff Blues), S Shingler (Scarlets), J Williams (Scarlets), J Hook (Perpignan), R Williams (Scarlets), P James (Bath), S Baldwin (Ospreys), R Jones (Scarlets), J Ball (Scarlets), I Evans (Ospreys), D Lydiate (captain, Racing Metro), D Baker (Ospreys), J Turnbull (Scarlets).

Replacements: M Rees (Cardiff Blues), A Jarvis (Ospreys), S Lee (Scarlets), L Charteris (Perpignan), A Shingler (Scarlets), G Davies (Scarlets), G North (Northampton Saints), L Williams (Scarlets).

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