Lions v Ospreys team news as Wales star repeatedly snubbed reaches milestone

He’s been compared to two of European rugby’s greatest strikers over the past decade, but Morgan Morris has apparently yet to register on Wayne Pivac’s radar screen as the back-row striker takes a personal step this week-end.

The 23-year-old will make his 50th appearance for the Ospreys when they take on the Lions in Johannesburg on Friday (kick-off 5pm UK time). For most of those games, Morris has been outstanding, earning comparison to a youngster Sean O’Brien from area development boss Mike Ruddock due to his ability to fend off tackles and being compared to the former player European of the Year Steffon Armitage by head coach Toby Booth. You can read more about these comparisons here.

But Morris has yet to catch Pivac’s attention despite the Wales manager having handed over 15 other backline players since taking over after the last World Cup.

Read more: Stars contact World Rugby over Six Nations incidents and Welsh region ‘appalled’

Versatile enough to play in the back row, the former Swansea player will face the Lions at the openside in a ‘same again’ selection from Booth following the win over Zebre last time out. The United Rugby Championship game will also be a highlight for Welsh stalwart Tom Botha as he plays again in his native South Africa. The deadpan tight head prepared for the game in the familiar surroundings of the Western Cape, where he was raised.

“It’s great to be back, especially as our training base is back in my home town,” he said this week. “It’s special in the sense that the training ground we use to prepare is my old school ground, so there are a lot of memories.”

No European side have won on South African territory in the United Rugby Championship, so there is a chance for the Ospreys to make history. But they can expect to be tested, with Cardiff and Munster having fallen to the Lions in recent weeks.

“We see it as an opportunity, but it’s always difficult playing away – nothing changes,” said the No.3. “The first thing we have to do is focus on ourselves. ” insists that his first priority is his region. “I’m just focused on the Ospreys. We want to go forward and be the best team in Wales and qualify for the Champions Cup. I just want to be the best player possible for the team. Our forwards coach Duncan Jones works with me every week and it’s been a good journey for me as I learn from him.”

Rhys Webb has captained the team since scrum half.

Ospreys head coach Booth said: “No team from the northern hemisphere has won in South Africa in the URC, which gives you the breadth of competition on this side of the world. We know it’s a tough challenge, but that’s who we are It’s not often you can get a first and if we could become the first team to win here in the URC that would be great. “Lions start all their games very well and score a lot of tries in the first 20 minutes of games and try to get the better of you that way. We have to make sure we are ready for this onslaught.

Emirates Lions: 15 Quan Horn; 14 Rabz Maxwane, 13 Wadisile Simelane, 12 Burger Odendaal, 11 Edwill van der Merwe; 10 Jordan Hendrikse, 9 Morne van den Berg; 1 Sti Sithole, 2 Jaco Visagie, 3. Carlu Sadie/Ruan Dreyer, 4. Ruben Schoeman, 5 Reinhard Nothnagel, Francke Horn, Vincent Tshituka, 8 Emmanuel Tshituka.

Replacements: 16 PJ Botha, 17 JP Smith, 18 Ruan Dreyer/Asenathi Ntlabakanye, 19 Ruan Venter, 20 Sibusiso Sangweni, 21 Andre Warner, 22 Manuel Rass, 23 Tiaan Swanepoel.

Ospreys: 15.Dan Evans; 14. Keelan Giles, 13. Michael Collins, 12. Keiran Williams, 11. Luke Morgan; 10. Stephen Myler, 9. Rhys Webb (captain); 1. Nicky Smith, 2. Sam Parry, 3. Tom Botha, 4. Rhys Davies, 5. Bradley Davies, 6. Dan Lydiate, 7. Morgan Morris, 8. Ethan Roots.

Replacements: 16. Scott Baldwin, 17. Rhodri Jones, 18. Rhys Henry, 19. Will Griffiths, 20. Harri Deaves, 21. Reuben Morgan-Williams, 22. Tiaan Thomas Wheeler, 23. Cai Evans.

Charles P. Patton