Teenager Prydie handed Wales debut
March 16, 2010
Mike Phillips has been named at scrum-half for Wales © Getty Images
Wales coach Warren Gatland has handed Ospreys teenager Tom Prydie a sensational Test debut against Italy at the Millennium Stadium on Saturday.
Prydie, at just 18 years and 27 days, will become the youngest-ever Wales international, replacing Leigh Halfpenny as one of five changes following a dismal defeat to Ireland. Veteran flanker Martyn Williams has been dropped in favour of Cardiff Blues youngster Sam Warburton and both Halfpenny and Williams miss out on the 22 altogether.
Gatland promised to wield the axe following their Croke Park horror-show and has been boosted by the return of British & Irish Lions Mike Phillips and Gethin Jenkins at scrum-half and loose-head respectively. Phillips replaces Cardiff Blues' Richie Rees, another who fails to make the squad, while Jenkins' return sees Paul James drop to the bench.
Skipper Ryan Jones is fit to return at No.8 and takes over from Gloucester's Gareth Delve. Fullback Lee Byrne, whose sin-binning cost Wales 10 points in Dublin, has survived the cuts.
So too has hooker Matthew Rees, who will want a vastly improved display at the lineout. For the first time this tournament Gatland is able to call on his complete Lions front-row, with Adam Jones joining Rees and Jenkins up front. Dwayne Peel provides backup to Phillips on the bench, where centres Tom Shanklin and Andrew Bishop remain the other backs cover.
"Tom has been with us for the duration of the campaign, he was one of two youngsters - brought in alongside Kristian Phillips - who we wanted to have a look at and we've been impressed with him," Gatland said. "We heard some good things about him from his region and from the coaches at Under 18 level and he has lived up to that, as has Kristian as well.
"He is the fastest player in the squad, he can play at fullback as well as on the wing and he is not afraid to tackle so we'll see how he goes. We have an eye on the future as well with the selection of Sam Warburton in the back-row, but both players come into the side alongside players who will also add experience and leadership.
"We are under no illusion that Italy will be a tough prospect on Saturday, we found it hard to break them down here two years ago and they have performed well in each game of the tournament so far and with a good win over Scotland under their belts we will be a target for them."
Wales: L Byrne (Ospreys); T Prydie (Ospreys), J Hook (Ospreys), J Roberts (Cardiff Blues), S Williams (Ospreys); S Jones (Scarlets), M Phillips (Ospreys); G Jenkins (Cardiff Blues), M Rees (Scarlets), A Jones (Ospreys), B Davies (Cardiff Blues), L Charteris (Newport Gwent Dragons), J Thomas (Ospreys), S Warburton (Cardiff Blues), R Jones (Ospreys, capt).
Replacements: H Bennett (Ospreys), P James (Ospreys), I Gough (Ospreys), G Delve (Gloucester), D Peel (Sale Sharks), A Bishop (Ospreys), T Shanklin (Cardiff Blues)