Wales make five changes for Kiwis
November 20, 2012
Sam Warburton is back at openside for Wales © PA Photos
Returning Wales coach Warren Gatland has recalled skipper Sam Warburton in one of five changes ahead of their match with the All Blacks on Saturday.
Gatland is back at the helm of Wales after sitting out the previous two Tests to prepare for next summer's British & Irish Lions tour to Australia. And Wales have struggled in his absence losing at home to both Argentina and Samoa.
Following Friday night's loss to Samoa, Gatland has shaken up the Welsh XV and has recalled Warburton at the expense of Justin Tipuric. There are also starts for centre Jonathan Davies, fly-half Rhys Priestland, hooker Matthew Rees and lock Luke Charteris.
Davies has recovered from a groin problem to make his first appearance of the autumn series, replacing Ashley Beck, while Priestland takes over from Dan Biggar, who was not considered because of a shoulder injury he sustained against Samoa. Former Wales captain Rees, meanwhile, returns to the front-row, where he will pack down alongside Paul James and Aaron Jarvis, with Charteris in for Ian Evans, who has taken only a limited part in training due to knee trouble.
Gatland now faces the task of getting Wales' autumn Test series back on track and he is relishing coming up against the All Blacks.
"No one is more disappointed than the players and the coaches with how things have gone in the last two weeks," Gatland said. "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.
"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."
Gatland led Wales to the 2011 World Cup, in his country of birth New Zealand,and he has happy memories of that competition.
"Memories of the Rugby World Cup last year and touring New Zealand the previous summer are still fresh in the mind of many of the players and staff," Gatland added. "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."
Gatland will retake the hot-seat for two Tests - against New Zealand and Australia on December 1 - before handing back control to interim head coach Rob Howley for Wales' Six Nations title defence, which starts against Ireland on February 2.
Wales: L Halfpenny (Cardiff Blues); A Cuthbert (Cardiff Blues), J Davies (Scarlets), J Roberts (Cardiff Blues), G North (Scarlets); R Priestland (Scarlets), M Phillips (Bayonne); P James (Bath), M Rees (Scarlets), A Jarvis (Ospreys), B Davies (Cardiff Blues), L Charteris (Perpignan), R Jones (Ospreys), S Warburton (Cardiff Blues, capt), T Faletau (Newport Gwent Dragons).
Replacements: K Owens (Scarlets), G Jenkins (Toulon), S Andrews (Cardiff Blues), A Shingler (Scarlets), J Tipuric (Ospreys), T Knoyle (Scarlets), J Hook (Perpignan), S Williams (Scarlets).
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