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Head coach Wayne Pivac has named a Wales squad that combines experience and some of the country’s most exciting young talents for the autumn Nations Series opener against New Zealand in the Principality Stadium.
Captain Alun Wyn Jones will lead his team on the pitch, in front of a large crowd for the first time since February 2019, due to the Covid-19 pandemic, and thus become the most capped international rugby player. [for any country] all time.
Jones will do his 149e appearance for Wales on Saturday, surpassing Richie McCaw’s record of 148 appearances for New Zealand.
Pivac has named an experienced front row with Scarlets and British and Irish Lions teammates Wyn Jones and Ken Owens, joined by Osprey Tomas Francis. This is a back-to-back Ospreys duo with Adam Beard alongside Captain Jones. The trio of Dragons composed of Ross Moriarty, Taine Basham and Aaron Wainwright gets the green light in the last row.
Basham will make his first start for Wales after making his international debut against Canada over the summer, scoring a pair of tries.
Tomos Williams of Cardiff Rugby and Gareth Anscombe of the Ospreys line up in the scrum half and away half respectively. Scarlets center Johnny Williams and Jonathan Davies takes his place in midfield with Cardiff wingers Josh Adams and Owen Lane bridging Scarlets fullback Johnny McNicholl in the backfield.
“The goal for this group was two weeks of training, they worked very, very hard and it galvanized them. We ran out of numbers this week so it wasn’t the normal preparation in terms of exact numbers to train against each other so it was a challenge, ”said Pivac.
“The guys are really excited but they know it’s a big job to do. The reality is that we are two years away from a Rugby World Cup and we are heading towards that. We have a Six Nations around the corner to defend and try to win this tournament again.
“They know it’s a huge challenge ahead of them. Every young Welsh player when they grow up wants to play in the Principality in front of 75,000, and if you ask them who they want to play against New Zealand, that would be one of the top two teams they would choose.
“With the injuries and the downtime it’s another great opportunity for players like Taine Basham and Ben Thomas to step into the squad and gain valuable experience. They’re going to come out of this test match knowing what it’s like to play against one of the best teams in the world.
“To win a World Cup you have to play against teams like New Zealand at some point in the tournament and you have to win those games. It will be a great experience for these guys who haven’t played a lot of rugby test and they will definitely know that they have been in a game afterwards.
Wales will face New Zealand at Principality Stadium on Saturday 30e October
15 Johnny McNicholl (scarlet)
14 Owen Lane (Cardiff Rugby)
13 Jonathan Davies (scarlet)
12 Johnny Williams (scarlet)
11 Josh Adams (Cardiff Rugby)
10 Gareth Anscombe (ospreys)
9 Tomos Williams (Cardiff Rugby);
1 Wyn Jones (scarlet)
2 Ken Owens (scarlet)
3 Tomas Francis (ospreys)
4 Adam Beard (ospreys)
5 Alun Wyn Jones (ospreys – captain)
6 Ross Moriarty (Dragons)
7 Taine Basham (Dragons)
8 Aaron Wainwright (Dragons)
16 Ryan Elias (scarlet)
17 Rhys Carré (Cardiff Rugby)
18 Dillon Lewis (Cardiff Rugby)
19 Will Rowlands (Dragons)
20 Seb Davies (Cardiff Rugby)
21 Gareth Davies (Scarlet)
22 Rhys Priestland (scarlet)
23 Ben Thomas (Cardiff Rugby)
Hooker Elliot Dee has been released from the Wales squad due to the neck injury he suffered against the Stormers a fortnight ago. He will now return to his region to continue his rehabilitation.
Cardiff Rugby hooker Kirby Myhill joined the team during their training camp at the Vale Resort. The former Wales Under-20 captain has made 72 appearances for the capital and has led the team on several occasions.