Tyler Morgan among Wales debutants against Ireland
Dragons teenager one of four new faces given a chance to prove their worth before Warren Gatland trims training squad next week
Newport Gwent Dragons teenager Tyler Morgan will make his Wales debut against RBS 6 Nations champions Ireland in Cardiff on Saturday.
The highly-rated 19-year-old centre, who was the youngest Welsh player to sign a national dual contract in December, is one of four new faces in an experimental Wales side for the first Rugby World Cup warm-up match at a sold out Millennium Stadium.
It’s going to be a huge occasion; Ireland coming to town, a packed Millennium Stadium and players with everything to play for.
Head coach Warren Gatland has resisted the urge to go all-out with an inexperienced side before he cuts his training squad from 46 to 36 or 37 for Wales’ final two warm-up matches against Ireland in Dublin and Italy in Cardiff.
But the fast turnaround of fixtures during the Rugby World Cup, and tough tests against Fiji, England and Australia in the pool stages, means the Kiwi is on the search for 31 players who can step in and do a job rather than warm the bench.
“Saturday is a real opportunity for these players to put their hand up,” Gatland said.
“We have been really impressed over the last few weeks, we have put the players under a lot of pressure and they have responded really well.
“Today is their opportunity to show what they can do on the international stage.
“We have the right blend of youth and experience and it’s all about grasping the chance at this level.
“It’s going to be a huge occasion, Ireland coming to town, a packed Millennium Stadium and players with everything to play for.”
Often compared to Wales legend Shane Williams, Ospreys winger Eli Walker will make his long-awaited senior international debut with Alex Cuthbert on the opposite flank and Newport Gwent Dragons youngster Hallam Amos slotting in at full-back for his second senior cap.
Scott Williams, favourite to start at outside centre during the Rugby World Cup in the absence of injured Jonathan Davies, will captain the side from inside centre on what will be his 30th appearance, while two Wales stalwarts have been handed the reins at half-back.
So often underused by Gatland in recent years, fans’ favourite James Hook will start at outside-half alongside Racing 92 scrum-half Mike Phillips, who will make his 94th appearance as both players face a battle to win a place in Gatland’s squad.
The experimenting continues up front, with Ospreys duo Nicky Smith and Aaron Jarvis packing down at loosehead and tighthead with British and Irish Lion Richard Hibbard providing experience at hooker.
With Alun Wyn Jones and Luke Charteris rested, Bath’s Dominic Day will make his debut in the engine room alongside Jake Ball with both hoping to impress.
A surprise inclusion in the training squad, Gloucester flanker Ross Moriarty gets a chance to step up to Test level with a debut at blindside flanker with Justin Tipuric at openside and his Ospreys team-mate Dan Baker given a chance to shine at number eight.
We have the right blend of youth and experience and it’s all about grasping the chance at this level.
Gatland has also opted for a mix of youth and experience on the bench with Cardiff Blues hooker Kristian Dacey and outside-half/full-back Gareth Anscombe hopeful of making their debuts.
Bristol’s Matthew Morgan will provide options at 10 and 15 with Blues scrum-half Lloyd Williams looking for a chance to get back into Rugby World Cup contention after his efforts in New Zealand four years ago helped Wales finish fourth.
Dragons number eight Taulupe Faletau and versatile Ospreys forward James King will provide cover for the second and back rows Scarlets’ Rob Evans and Blues’ Scott Andrews the replacement props.
Wales: Hallam Amos (Newport Gwent Dragons); Alex Cuthbert (Cardiff Blues), Tyler Morgan (Newport Gwent Dragons), Scott Williams (Scarlets, captain), Eli Walker (Ospreys); James Hook (Gloucester Rugby), Mike Phillips (Racing 92); Nicky Smith (Ospreys), Richard Hibbard (Gloucester), Aaron Jarvis (Ospreys), Jake Ball (Scarlets), Dominic Day (Bath Rugby), Ross Moriarty (Gloucester), Justin Tipuric (Ospreys), Dan Baker (Ospreys).
Replacements: Kristian Dacey (Cardiff Blues), Rob Evans (Scarlets), Scott Andrews (Cardiff Blues), James King (Ospreys), Taulupe Faletau (Newport Gwent Dragons); Lloyd Williams (Cardiff Blues), Gareth Anscombe (Cardiff Blues), Matthew Morgan (Bristol Rugby)
Ireland: Felix Jones (Munster); Andrew Trimble (Ulster), Keith Earls (Munster), Darren Cave (Ulster), Fergus McFadden (Leinster); Paddy Jackson (Ulster), Eoin Reddan (Leinster); Jack McGrath (Leinster), Richardt Strauss (Leinster), Mike Ross (Leinster), Iain Henderson (Ulster), Donnacha Ryan (Munster), Jordi Murphy (Leinster), Tommy O’Donnell (Munster), Jamie Heaslip (Leinster, captain).
Replacements: Rory Best (Ulster), Dave Kilcoyne (Munster), Michael Bent (Leinster), Dan Tuohy (Ulster), Chris Henry (Ulster); Kieran Marmion (Connacht), Ian Madigan (Leinster), Simon Zebo (Munster).