Hawkins takes centre stage for Wales against Wallabies
TEAM ANNOUNCEMENT: Wales head coach Wayne Pivac has revealed his team to face the Wallabies in Cardiff on Saturday.
Joe Hawkins will win his first international cap, coming in at inside centre for Owen Watkin who has been ruled out of the match due to a knee injury. George North partners Hawkins in the Wales midfield.
Leigh Halfpenny, named at fullback, makes his first start for Wales since the middle of 2021 having featured as a replacement last weekend. Rio Dyer and Alex Cuthbert are selected on the wings.
Taulupe Faletau returns the Wales XV at No.8 and will make his 100th Test appearance (95th for Wales and five Lions). Joining him in the back row are Jac Morgan (blindside flanker) and captain Justin Tipuric (openside flank).
Alun Wyn Jones is also named in the starting line-up, alongside Adam Beard in the Wales second row. Gareth Thomas (loosehead prop), Ken Owens (hooker) and Dillon Lewis (tighthead prop) continue in the front row.
Gareth Anscombe at flyhalf starts his third match this November. Tomos Williams is at scrumhalf.
On the Wales bench the front row cover is provided by Ryan Elias (hooker), Rhodri Jones (loosehead prop) and Tomas Francis (tighthead prop). Ben Carter and Josh Macleod, who made his senior international debut against Georgia, are the other replacement forwards.
Kieran Hardy, Rhys Priestland and Josh Adams will cover the backs.
Pivac said: “The whole squad is extremely disappointed with last week’s performance. It’s not the result that anybody wanted. It’s not the result that anyone expected. We’ve gone through a review process. We know what went wrong and what is required to get the result this weekend.
“There’s been an injury to Owen Watkin which gives an opportunity to young Joe Hawkins. He’s obviously very excited. He’s been in camp training for the last month and learning a lot and he’s looked good in training so he gets an opportunity.
“Some players have come back that were not involved last week. Certainly it’s a side we’ve selected to get a result which we’re desperately seeking. They’ve gelled well at the start of the week and we look forward to seeing how we go.
“Clearly this will be a step up – we’re playing an Australian side that will have a lot of changes for probably similar reasons to ourselves over the last month or so with injuries, but what we do know about Australia is that they’re a dangerous side whatever team they put out. We’ve seen that with the close games in this autumn series. So we’re expecting a very, very tough battle.
On Faletau making his 100th Test appearance: “Toby is a world-class player and it’s testament to his hard work and commitment that he’s making his 100th Test appearance this weekend. I know it will be a proud day for him and his family.”
Wales 15 Leigh Halfpenny, 14 Alex Cuthbert, 13 George North, 12 Joe Hawkins, 11 Rio Dyer, 10 Gareth Anscombe, 9 Tomos Williams, 8 Taulupe Faletau, 7 Justin Tipuric (captain), 6 Jac Morgan, 5 Alun Wyn Jones, 4 Adam Beard, 3 Dillon Lewis, 2 Ken Owens, 1 Gareth Thomas.
Replacements: 16 Ryan Elias, 17 Rhodri Jones, 18 Tomas Francis, 19 Ben Carter, 20 Josh Macleod, 21 Kieran Hardy, 22 Rhys Priestland, 23 Josh Adams.
Date: Saturday, November 26
Venue: Millennium Stadium, Cardiff
Kick-off: 15.15 (15.15 GMT; 02.15 AEDT Sunday, November 27)
Referee: Matthew Carley (England)
Assistant referees: Luke Pearce (England), Chris Busby (Ireland)
TMO: Joy Neville (Ireland)