Wales may have lost their past 13 internationals to Australia but Warren Gatland has left three of his senior players on the bench for Saturday’sTest with the Wallabies in Cardiff along with the co-captains on last summer’s tour to Argentina.
The Northampton fly-half Dan Biggar and the Saracens wing Liam Williams, who both toured New Zealand with the Lions last year, are named among the replacements having missed the victory over Scotland because they could not secure release from their clubs. They are joined by the prop Rob Evans and the leaders in Argentina, Cory Hill and Ellis Jenkins, with Gatland believing the bench is key to ending the losing run against Australia.
Worcester’s Josh Adams will win his fifth cap on the wing, Gareth Anscombe continues at fly-half, Nicky Smith keeps Evans out of the front row and Adam Beard, who is not a first choice for Ospreys when all their second rows are fit, keeps out Hill.
“We wanted some continuity from last week as well as rewarding players who did well for us in the summer,” Gatland said. “We know Liam’s capabilities and this will give us a good opportunity to look at Josh and, while we are aware of Dan’s qualities, we did not want to put Gareth back on the bench after one game. Adam Beard is 6ft 8in and 19st, player of the future who has real skills in a position where we want to create strength. We want to see how he performs at the next level.I have had frank conversations with players who have not been selected. It is not about creating media hype about someone not being picked but building for the next 10 months.
“We have one of the strongest benches we have had for a long time. There is some experience there and we talked about the importance of the impact of the replacements. Many of the defeats to Australia happened because we were not clinical in the last few minutes. The match is definitely important in terms of confidence, with Australia the biggest opponents in our World Cup pool next year and we have to manage expectations.”
Since beating Wales 29-21 in Cardiff last year, Australia have lost nine Tests out of 12 and conceded 42 tries. Michael Cheika has made five changes, one positional, from the side who lost to New Zealand in Japan last month.
L Halfpenny (Scarlets); G North (Ospreys), J Davies (Scarlets), H Parkes (Scarlets), J Adams (Worcester); G Anscombe (Cardiff Blues), G Davies (Scarlets); N Smith (Ospreys), K Owens (Scarlets), T Francis (Exeter), A Beard (Ospreys), A W Jones (Ospreys, capt), D Lydiate (Ospreys), J Tipuric (Ospreys), R Moriarty (Dragons).
Replacements: E Dee (Dragons), R Evans (Scarlets), D Lewis (Cardiff Blues), C Hill (Dragons), E Jenkins (Cardiff Blues), T Williams (Cardiff Blues), D Biggar (Northampton), L Williams (Saracens).
Photograph: Ben Birchall/PA
“I don’t read anything into our recent run against Wales,” Cheika said. “If you want to find a pattern, you can find one anywhere. Wales have had a few wins in a row [six] and are up to third in the world.
“They are in top form but this is as good as I have seen us come to Europe in terms of conditioning in the last few years. We are pretty hungry after an indifferent season and there is a really good feeling in the camp. Everyone has been training hard and there has been a bit of niggle. I’ve enjoyed it. Warren is one of the best coaches in the world and he has got a well-drilled team. It is a great opportunity to take their scalp.”