Jonathan Davies named in Wales team to face New Zealand
Warren Gatland handed boost for clash against the world champions as trio overcome injury battles
Clermont Auvergne centre Jonathan Davies has recovered from his shoulder injury to take his place in the Wales midfield for Saturday’s clash against New Zealand.
After making eight changes last week against Fiji, Wales head coach Warren Gatland has welcomed back a number of other players from injury, and names a team close to the one that started against the Australia at the Millennium Stadium 11 days ago.
“It’s pretty much the same side that played against Australia and it’s a boost to have a few players back from injury,” Gatland said.
“It’s one of the most experienced teams we have put out.”
Ospreys outside-half Dan Biggar has recovered from the groin injury he picked up in the second half against Australia and is reunited with his club scrum-half Rhys Webb, while Toulon full-back Leigh Halfpenny is also fit again after going through the graduated return-to-play protocols following a head knock.
Halfpenny’s inclusion means last week’s man of the match Liam Williams is the man from the starting XV against the Wallabies to miss out, with George North back on his preferred left wing, and Alex Cuthbert keeping his place on the right wing.
Racing Metro’s Jamie Roberts lines up inside Davies in the Wales midfield.
There are no changes to the pack which started in the 33-28 defeat to Australia as Paul James and Richard Hibbard return to join Samson Lee in the front row., while lock duo Alun Wyn Jones and Jake Ball continue their partnership in the engine room.
The back row again sees Justin Tipuric reduced to a cameo appearance off the bench as captain Sam Warburton, who missed the clash against Fiji, comes back into the side alongside Dan Lydiate and Taulupe Faletau.
“A couple of decisions have been forced upon us,” Gatland added.
“Gethin Jenkins has a hamstring strain, Bradley Davies hasn’t trained for the first couple of days, and Liam Williams had a bit of ankle knock at the weekend, and it was a big call on him, but he will start on the bench.”
Gloucester outside-half James Hook continues to warm the bench after his services weren’t used against Fiji when Rhys Priestland played all 80 minutes in what was widely described as one of Wales’ poorest performances in many years.
The arrival of the world champions, with many of their key players having had a light workload as they sat out the win over Scotland in Edinburgh last week, promises to be the toughest test Wales have endured since this summer’s 2-0 series defeat in South Africa.
“We are expecting another clinical performance from the All Blacks,” Gatland added.
“We need to match their intensity and aggression.
“The players are obviously excited about the opportunity to face the number one side at a packed Millennium Stadium.
“We have named an experienced team, and we are really looking forward to it.”
Combative scrum-half Mike Phllips also drops to the bench along with Ospreys hooker Scott Baldwin and Racing Metro lock Luke Charteris. Props Nicky Smith and Rhodri Jones complete the bench.
Wales team to play New Zealand: Leigh Halfpenny (Toulon); Alex Cuthbert (Cardiff Blues), Jonathan Davies (Clermont Auvergne), Jamie Roberts (Racing Metro), George North (Northampton Saints), Dan Biggar (Ospreys); Rhys Webb (Ospreys); Paul James (Bath Rugby), Richard Hibbard (Gloucester Rugby), Samson Lee (Scarlets), Jake Ball (Scarlets), Alun Wyn Jones (Ospreys), Dan Lydiate (Unattached), Sam Warburton (Cardiff Blues, captain), Taulupe Faletau (Newport Gwent Dragons).
Replacements: Scott Baldwin (Ospreys), Nicky Smith (Ospreys), Rhodri Jones (Scarlets), Luke Charteris (Racing Metro), Justin Tipuric (Ospreys); Mike Phillips (Racing Metro), James Hook (Gloucester), Liam Williams (Scarlets).