Pivac rings changes to Wales
TEAM ANNOUNCEMENT: Wales coach Wayne Pivac has made nine changes to the starting line-up for their final year-end Nations Cup game against Italy in Llanelli on Saturday.
Last year’s Six Nations Grand Slam winners have won just two of their nine Tests since Pivac succeeded Warren Gatland after the 2019 World Cup, beating just Italy and Georgia.
Flank Justin Tipuric, who missed the 24-13 loss to England last weekend because of a head knock, returns to the back row alongside James Botham and Taulupe Faletau.
Other switches include a start for veteran George North at outside centre, with the inexperienced duo of Callum Sheedy and Kieran Hardy named as halfbacks.
Wing North’s last Wales start in the No.13 shirt was against Italy in February, when he helped his side to a 42-0 victory.
Pivac has selected a new front row of Nicky Smith, Sam Parry – who makes his first Test start – and Tomas Francis, with lock Will Rowlands replacing Jake Ball.
Botham retains his place and moves from openside to blindside flank, accommodating Tipuric’s return, with one other change seeing a fit-again Liam Williams returning at fullback instead of Leigh Halfpenny.
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“Saturday is another opportunity for these players, and for us as a squad it is another opportunity to continue to build and to see the results of all the hard work in training,” said Pivac.
“We have blooded eight new caps this campaign, and importantly by the end of the match each of them would have had a number of appearances to their name.
“From the outset we wanted this campaign to be about giving players opportunity and we have done that.”
Wales: 15 Liam Williams, 14 Josh Adams, 13 George North, 12 Johnny Williams, 11 Louis Rees-Zammit, 10 Callum Sheedy, 9 Kieran Hardy, 8 Taulupe Faletau, 7 Justin Tipuric, 6 James Botham, 5 Alun Wyn Jones (captain), 4 Will Rowlands, 3 Tomas Francis, 2 Sam Parry, 1 Nicky Smith.
Replacements: 16 Elliot Dee, 17 Wyn Jones, 18 Leon Brown, 19 Cory Hill, 20 Aaron Wainwright, 21 Gareth Davies, 22 Ioan Lloyd, 23 Jonah Holmes.
Date: Saturday, December 5
Venue: Parc y Scarlets, Llanelli
Kick-off: 16.45 (17.45 Italian time; 16.45 GMT)
Referee: Wayne Barnes
Assistant referees: Luke Pearce and Alex Ruiz
TMO: Pascal Gauzere