Wales make eight changes for Vodafone Flying Fijians
Warren Gatland names strong squad to take on the Tier 2 nation at the Millennium Stadium on Saturday
Wales have made eight changes from the side lost 33-28 to Australia for Saturday’s clash with the Vodafone Flying Fijians.
British and Irish Lions duo Gethin Jenkins and Mike Phillips both start, after their second-half appearances against the Wallabies, while George North switches to his familiar left wing position after an outing at centre last time out.
We have made some changes, a few enforced by injury, but we do not feel that the side has been weakened
Aware that the last time Fjii visited the Millennium Stadium they left with a 16-16 draw against a weakened team, Wales head coach Warren Gatland insists that the he has selected a strong squad for the match against the Tier 2 nation, who they will also meet for the third consecutive Rugby World Cup next year.
“We have made a number of changes, but we are going out there with what we think is a strong side to take on Fiji,” Gatland said.
“The whole squad has been working hard and pressing for selection and it is an opportunity for others to start.
“We were pleased with the performance against Australia and this weekend will be about building on that.
“We have made some changes, a few enforced by injury, but we do not feel that the side has been weakened.”
With captain Sam Warburton rested, loosehead prop Jenkins will lead the side for the fourth time, and he is joined in the front row by Ospreys hooker Scott Baldwin, who makes his first Wales start, and Scarlets tighthead Samson Lee.
There is also a pair of changes in the engine room as Racing Metro’s Luke Charteris returns to the starting XV after being released back to his club last week, and he is joined by Wasps lock Bradley Davies, who starts in place of Alun Wyn Jones
Newport Gwent Dragons number 8 Taulupe Faletau keeps his place in the back row , as does unattached blindside flanker Dan Lydiate, while Ospreys flanker Justin Tipuric comes in for Warburton on the openside.
With Dan Biggar out with a groin injury, Scarlets outside-half Rhys Priestland makes his first start since Wales’ defeat to England in the Six Nations in March, and he is joined by experienced scrum-half Phillips, who returns at the expense of Rhys Webb.
Gloucester outside-half James Hook is named on the bench after he was called up to the squad on Sunday.
Scarlets centre Scott Williams has recovered from a hamstring strain to partner Jamie Roberts in the midfield, with Clermont Auvergne’s Jonathan Davies not yet ready to return.
Cardiff Blues winger Alex Cuthbert retains his place in the back three along with North, and Scarlets full-back Liam Williams returning to his more familiar position with Leigh Halfpenny out with concussion.
Fiji head coach John McKee will name his team on Wednesday morning.
Wales team to play Fiji: Liam Williams (Scarlets); Alex Cuthbert (Cardiff Blues), Scott Williams (Scarlets), Jamie Roberts (Racing Metro), George North (Northampton Saints); Rhys Priestland (Scarlets), Mike Phillips (Racing Metro); Gethin Jenkins (Cardiff Blues, captain), Scott Baldwin (Ospreys), Samson Lee (Scarlets), Bradley Davies (Wasps), Luke Charteris (Racing Metro), Dan Lydiate (unattached), Justin Tipuric (Ospreys), Taulupe Faletau (Newport Gwent Dragons).
Replacements: Emyr Phillips (Scarlets), Nicky Smith (Ospreys), Rhodri Jones (Scarlets), Alun Wyn Jones (Ospreys), James King (Ospreys); Rhodi Williams (Scarlets), James Hook (Gloucester), Cory Allen (Cardiff Blues).