Monday 18 December 2017

Wales make six changes for Australia test

Wales's Liam Williams
Wales's Liam Williams

Wales head coach Warren Gatland has made six changes to his team for Saturday's World Cup Pool A decider against Australia at Twickenham.

There is a first Test start for New Zealand-born Gareth Anscombe, who features at full-back, while Liam Williams returns after concussion on the wing and George North switches to outside centre as Jamie Roberts' midfield partner.

Elsewhere, prop Paul James returns from injury and replaces Gethin Jenkins, Luke Charteris features at lock and skipper Sam Warburton moves to blindside flanker, with openside Justin Tipuric handed a start.

North and Warburton both make positional switches, while Scarlets prop Samson Lee returns to the front row, where he will pack down alongside James and hooker Scott Baldwin.

Elsewhere, Gatland has retained an in-form half-back combination of Dan Biggar and Gareth Davies, but flanker Dan Lydiate does not feature in the match-day 23, with Gloucester's Ross Moriarty providing back-row bench cover.

Tipuric's promotion to the starting XV is no surprise, given his outstanding form.

And with two specialist opensides on parade, Wales have strengthened their hand at the critical breakdown area, where Australia are a proven force, although the Wallabies will be without suspended flanker Michael Hooper this weekend.

Anscombe, whose mother is from Cardiff, was called into the squad as an injury replacement last month, and he has overcome an ankle problem himself to regain full fitness.

With strong-running wing North in the centre - he has played there previously for Wales - Newport Gwent Dragons prospect Tyler Morgan drops out. Gatland, meanwhile, has been able to select from a fully-fit squad.

Gatland said: "Saturday is another huge encounter, and both sides will be coming in with momentum and looking to top Pool A.

"We have been impressed with Australia so far in this competition, and we know a step up is required at Twickenham this weekend. It is still all to play for in terms of the knockout phases.

"We've trained well this week, had a full squad to pick from and it is great to welcome back players from injury."

The winners of Saturday's clash will face a quarter-final against Scotland or Japan, with a semi-final possibility of meeting Ireland, France or Argentina, but the losers will tackle twice world champions South Africa in the last-eight.

Wales and Australia are both unbeaten in the competition and currently locked on 13 points, well clear of already-eliminated England.

Wales, though, will need to end a run of 10 successive defeats against Australia.

They have not toppled the Wallabies since 2008, although seven of those 10 losses have been by five points or fewer.

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