Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Gatland Makes Five Wales Changes

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Wales have made five changes to the side defeated by Samoa to face world champions New Zealand on Saturday.

Scarlet Jonathan Davies returns from a groin injury to partner Jamie Roberts and reunite Wales' 2012 Grand Slam centre partnership.

Captain Sam Warburton returns at open-side flanker and lock Luke Charteris replaces the injured Ian Evans. Matthew Rees is selected at hooker.

Rhys Priestland replaces the injured Dan Biggar at fly-half.

Wales coach Warren Gatland, who is in charge for the final two games - New Zealand and Australia - of this autumn Test series, has warned his side of the task they face against the current World Champions and Rugby Championship winners.

"This New Zealand team is one of the best rugby sides to have ever played the game and probably the best All Blacks team ever, so it will be a privilege to be able to test ourselves against them," said New Zealander Gatland.

"No one is more disappointed than the players and the coaches with how things have gone in the last two weeks, but those supporters who have been with us over the last 18 months know, just as we do, that we are a better side than we have displayed so far and we will be looking to show that on Saturday."

Gethin Jenkins, who has struggled to play regular rugby since he moved to Toulon in France, has failed to win a starting place and is on the bench, with Paul James selected at loose-head prop.

Gatland returns to take charge of Wales, while he has been on British and Irish Lions duty, and has seen his side suffer to shock defeats to Argentina and Samoa.

"It's an honour to be playing the World Champions at the Millennium Stadium this weekend," said Gatland.

"Memories of the Rugby World Cup and touring New Zealand the previous summer are still fresh in the mind of many of the players and staff.

"The hospitality shown and the way we were looked after made the experience especially memorable and that makes it all the more special that we have the opportunity to face the best side in the world at the moment in Cardiff.

Toulon's Jenkins is joined on the bench by Ken Owens and Aaron Shingler of the Scarlets and Scott Andrews of the Cardiff Blues.

Scarlets scrum-half Tavis Knoyle and centre Scott Williams are joined by Perpignan fly-half James Hook to complete the matchday-23.

Ospreys hooker Richard Hibbard (shoulder), fly-half Dan Biggar (shoulder) and lock Ian Evans (knee) have all been ruled out with injuries.

The Ospreys trio suffered injuries during the bruising 26-19 defeat to Samoa at the Millennium Stadium on Friday.

Blues lock Lou Reed and Scarlets hooker Kirby Myhill have joined the Wales squad. Scarlet prop Samson Lee and Ospreys lock Lloyd Peers were already drafted in to train with the Wales squad.

Hibbard and Biggar left the field during the first half while Evans did not reappear for the second half.

Hooker Hibbard, making only his fifth start for Wales, was felled by a crunching tackle from the outstanding Taiasina Tu'ifua.

He was replaced after 17 minutes by Ken Owens and watched the remainder of the game from the bench with his arm in a sling.

Fly-half Biggar left the field bloodied and dazed following a head-first challenge in a ruck by Samoa lock Teofilo Paulo.

Wales were without flanker Dan Lydiate, tight-head props Adam Jones and Craig Mitchell and hooker Huw Bennett ahead of the autumn series while lock Alun Wyn Jones and flanker Josh Turnbull joined them on the sidelines.

Alun Wyn Jones and Turnbull were ruled out for the remainder of the four-Test series after suffering injuries in the 26-12 loss to Argentina.

Wales face New Zealand in Cardiff next Saturday before hosting Australia in the final Test of the series on 1 December.

WALES: Leigh Halfpenny; Alex Cuthbert, Jonathan Davies, Jamie Roberts, George North; Rhys Priestland, Mike Phillips; Paul James, Matthew Rees, Aaron Jarvis, Bradley Davies, Luke Charteris, Ryan Jones, Sam Warburton (Captain), Toby Faletau

REPLACEMENTS: Ken Owens, Gethin Jenkins, Scott Andrews, Aaron Shingler, Justin Tipuric, Tavis Knoyle, James Hook, Scott Williams

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