Wales ring changes for Wallabies
November 29, 2011
Sam Warburton is back for Wales to face the Wallabies © Getty Images
Wales coach Warren Gatland has made six changes to the side which lost the bronze final of the 2011 World Cup for Saturday's clash with Australia at the Millennium Stadium.
Sam Warburton returns as captain after being sent off during Wales' agonising World Cup semi-final loss to France and then missing the Wallabies clash through suspension. There are also starts for centre Scott Williams, half-backs Rhys Priestland and Lloyd Williams, plus prop Scott Andrews and lock Ian Evans.
Injuries have sidelined centre Jonathan Davies, props Adam Jones and Paul James and lock Alun Wyn-Jones, while half-backs James Hook and Mike Phillips are unavailable because of commitments with their respective French clubs Perpignan and Bayonne. The selection is highlighted by wing Shane Williams making his 87th and final Wales appearance.
Williams, who has scored a record 57 tries for his country, will retire from international rugby next weekend and his guaranteed an emotional Millennium Stadium send-off. The 34-year-old, a former International Rugby Board player of the year, will continue his Ospreys career after stepping down from Test duty.
Gatland believes the match will be a fitting tribute to mark the end of Williams' international career.
"It does not often happen in professional sport that a player gets the opportunity to call time on his international career, then play one last match like this one in front of his home fans and the people he has given so much joy and entertainment to," Gatland said. "Saturday is a great opportunity for the fans to show Shane what he has meant to them and we all hope to send him off on the right note."
However, the Wales coach insisted the game is just as much about looking towards the future as well as saying goodbye to one of the country's greatest servants in the game.
"As we remember the highs and lows of New Zealand and the World Cup, the focus must now be to build for the next four years, the immediate future of the 6 Nations next year and towards the 2015 World Cup," Gatland said. "Players like Scott Andrews, Ian Evans and Lloyd Williams (have) an immediate opportunity to impress and also the likes of Justin Tipuric, Dan Biggar and Alex Cuthbert with a chance from the bench."
L Halfpenny (Cardiff Blues); G North (Scarlets), Scott Williams (Scarlets), J Roberts (Cardiff Blues), Shane Williams (Ospreys); R Priestland (Scarlets), L Williams (Cardiff Blues); G Jenkins (Cardiff Blues), H Bennett (Ospreys), S Andrews (Cardiff Blues), B Davies (Cardiff Blues), I Evans (Ospreys), D Lydiate (Newport Gwent Dragons), S Warburton (Cardiff Blues, capt), T Faletau (Newport Gwent Dragons)
Replacements: M Rees (Scarlets), R Bevington (Ospreys), R Jones (Ospreys), J Tipuric (Ospreys), T Knoyle (Scarlets), D Biggar (Ospreys), A Cuthbert (Cardiff Blues)
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
Huw Richards assesses where Wales are after a mixed Six Nations, with front row seats still very much available for the World Cup
John Mitchell lapped up the action on 'Sensational Saturday' - but warns not to expect a repeat come Rugby World Cup time later this year
Craig Dowd warns England, Ireland and Wales they should play to their strengths rather than those of the All Blacks and the Wallabies
Tom Hamilton runs the rule over just where the six countries stand ahead of the global gathering in September