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Wales explain 'dark times' reason for naming Tipuric as captain

By PA
(Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile via Getty Images)

New Wales captain Justin Tipuric will lead his country into the Autumn Nations Series after an intense 15-month injury battle that put a stellar career on hold. Tipuric missed the whole of last season due to a shoulder blade injury suffered during the British and Irish Lions’ South Africa tour warm-up Test against Japan in June 2021.

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The 86-cap Ospreys flanker last played for Wales 19 months ago, but he will return against New Zealand in the autumn opener on November 5 as skipper instead of an injured Dan Biggar. “It was one of those things,” Tipuric said, reflecting on his long spell out of the game.

“I had good family and friends around me and the medical team with the Ospreys were amazing. Any low days you had, they would be there to pick you up. I always had that aim to get back on the pitch. You are not the youngest and a few people are questioning if you are going to carry on or not, but you make the most of what you have got.

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“There were a couple (of bumps in the road). That is part of a rugby career. You have bumps in the road all the way through your career. There was no theory or history about whether I could or couldn’t come back. There was a little bit of doubt, but nothing major.

“I put my trust in the surgeon and the great strength and conditioning and medical teams I had. I hoped I could get over the line.”

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Tipuric previously captained Wales against Uruguay during the 2019 World Cup in Japan and head coach Wayne Pivac had no hesitation in turning to him. “We think he will command a starting position and he has got the respect of all the players in the squad from the most senior player down to the most junior,” said Pivac. “Justin can play in all three back row positions, so we have multiple options with the group that we have got.

“Clearly, when it comes to selection, we are already talking around the likely and possible selection for New Zealand, and Justin will be in the mix somewhere. I admire those players that get through those dark times, and when they come out the other side they are generally a lot stronger for it.”

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Tipuric’s Ospreys teammate Dewi Lake, meanwhile, has been ruled out of the autumn schedule due to a shoulder injury. The hooker was hurt during his team’s United Rugby Championship defeat against the Dragons on Sunday. Lake has been replaced in the 35-man squad by Dragons’ former Ulster forward Bradley Roberts.

Pivac was already without Biggar, Liam Williams, Wyn Jones, Leon Brown, Seb Davies, Johnny Williams, Josh Navidi and Taine Basham because of injuries, and a number of other players will require monitoring during the build-up to New Zealand’s Cardiff visit. That list includes George North (knee), Leigh Halfpenny (hamstring strain), Josh Adams (hand), Alex Cuthbert (shoulder), Gareth Anscombe (ribs) and Taulupe Faletau (calf).

“Those guys are all in rehab at the moment. They are all improving,” Pivac added. “All of them, at this stage, are in consideration for the All Blacks, that’s the plan, and hopefully we will have them all up and running at the latest on Monday. They are all in the same boat.”

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