TEIFI rugby star Gareth Davies has earned high praise from British and Irish Lions head coach Warren Gatland after scoring in the opening match of the South Africa tour.

The Scarlets scrum-half, an ex-pupil at Ysgol Dyffryn Teifi in Llandysul, took a pass from Elliot Daly to cruise in under the posts in the 56-14 win over Sigma Lions in Johannesburg.

After replacing Scottish international Ali Price on the hour, the Newcastle Emlyn man showed pace in attack and bite in defence with a very promising cameo in the final 20 minutes.

Davies has been rewarded with a starting place in the team to face the Sharks in Johannesburg on Wednesday, with Connor Murray being named as the replacement number nine.

"I'm absolutely delighted for Gareth, he's a player I've got a lot of time for, and he's a different type of player," said Gatland after naming his side for the first midweek match of the tour.

"He's a very powerful person in terms of how he defends, he's got a great try-scoring record, and I think in 40 Test matches, he's scored about 19 or 20 tries.

"The message for him is all of our three nines are different, so play to his strengths. He brings different strengths to the game.

"He gets off the line defensively, and he puts opposition teams under pressure.

"He runs some great support lines and scores tries, and he needs to go out there and play his own game and play to his strengths."

Irishman Conor Murray is odds-on favourite to start the first Test against the Springboks after being installed as tour captain, but Davies has put down a marker for the matchday squad.

The 30 year-old Davies has been capped 62 times for Wales, played in two World Cups, and also played a large part in all five games when Wales won the Grand Slam two years ago.

The experienced number nine, who has racked up over 200 appearances for the Scarlets, was previously called up as unused cover for the British and Irish Lions tour to New Zealand in 2017.

He played a key role in Wayne Pivac’s Six Nations Championship winning side earlier this year, and has earned his place as one of 10 Welshmen selected for the 2021 Lions tour.

On Wednesday, Wales lock Adam Beard and back row Josh Navidi will make their debuts after being called up as replacements for the injured Alun Wyn Jones and Justin Tipuric.

Wales' Dan Biggar starts at fly-half and Liam Willaims at full-back, with hooker Ken Owens being named on the bench.

Last weekend Josh Adams scored four second half tries as the British and Irish Lions saw off the Sigma Lions in fine style, with Louis Rees-Zammit, Ali Price,  Hamish Watson and Davies also scoring.

Owen Farrell completed all eight conversions in the convincing 56-14 win for Warren Gatland’s Lions, who take on Sharks on Wednesday in Johannesburg, and then Bulls on Saturday in Pretoria.

British and Irish Lions to face Cell C Sharks: Williams; Watson, Daly, Aki, Van der Merwe; Biggar, Davies; Vunipola, Cowan-Dickie, Fagerson, Henderson (capt), Beard, Navidi, Curry, Simmonds. Replacements: Owens, Sutherland, Furlong, Beirne, Conan, Murray, Hogg, Harris.