Wales reshuffle pack to play Australia
CARDIFF (AFP) –
Wales have made four changes, all in the pack, to their starting XV to play Australia in their final must-win autumn series match on Saturday.
A loss to the Wallabies would see Wales, who have lost to Argentina, Samoa and New Zealand this November, drop out of the top-eight seeds for the 2015 World Cup draw, which takes place in London on Monday, leaving them open to a tougher pool.
Coach Warren Gatland has brought in Scott Andrews for injured tighthead prop Aaron Jarvis, while lock Ian Evans comes in for Bradley Davies, who was ruled out after being felled by the now-banned Andrew Hore in Wales’ 33-10 defeat by the All Blacks last weekend.
“We need to pick up from where we left off in the second half last week,” Gatland said in reference to Wales’ spirited comeback from 33-0 down to score two tries in the second period.
“We managed to retain 73 percent possession after the break against he All Blacks and win the territory battle and we need to put Australia under similar pressure from the outset.”
Aaron Shingler, who impressed against New Zealand, takes his place in the backrow at the expense of Ryan Jones, who falls to the bench.
The other change sees Toulon prop Gethin Jenkins replace Paul James, who has returned to his English club Bath as this fourth international falls out of the IRB window and clubs are not obliged to release players.
Uncapped Scarlets prop Samson Lee and Ospreys front-rower Ryan Bevington come onto the replacements’ bench.
The backline remains the same as the one that played New Zealand, Mike Phillips and Rhys Priestland combining at half-back, with Jamie Roberts recovered from a hip injury to line up alongside Jonathan Davies in midfield.
Liam Williams and Alex Cuthbert, who both enjoyed fine attacking games against the All Blacks, start on the wings, with George North still out injured. Leigh Halfpenny retained his spot at full-back.
Sam Warburton will captain the side from openside, Toby Faletau starting at No 8, with highly-rated openside Justin Tipuric named among the substitutes along with fly-half Dan Biggar, drafted in after James Hook returned to Perpignan.
Wales are on a six-match losing streak kicked off by a three-Test losing series against Australia in the summer (by a combined total of 11 points), a fact not lost on Gatland.
“We have played them regularly over the last couple of years and have come close to winning on a number of occasions, but have not quite been able to get ourselves over the chalk of the finish line,” said Gatland.
“Both sides have have had injuries to cope with, but there is every reason for optimism.”
Wales team (15-1)
Leigh Halfpenny; Alex Cuthbert, Jonathan Davies, Jamie Roberts, Liam Williams; Rhys Priestland, Mike Phillips; Toby Faletau, Sam Warburton (capt), Aaron Shingler; Luke Charteris, Ian Evans; Scott Andrews, Matthew Rees, Gethin Jenkins
Replacements: Ken Owens, Ryan Bevington, Samson Lee, Ryan Jones, Justin Tipuric, Tavis Knoyle, Dan Biggar, Scott Williams