Gatland happy to throw Allen in at the deep end against Argentina
Twenty-year-old Cardiff Blues centre will debut against Argentina on Saturday
Cory Allen of Wales breaks away to score a try against Canada at the 2013 Hong Kong Sevens. Photograph: Mark Kolbe/Getty Images
Warren Gatland habitually uses the autumn international period to give a first cap to a young, relative unknown and the Wales head coach has not made this year an exception. Cory Allen, the 20-year old Cardiff Blues centre whose ambition only two months ago was to be named in his region’s squad, will make his Test debut against Argentina tomorrow.
Gatland has typically followed his instinct and given Allen, who was out of action for eight months earlier this year after shoulder surgery, his chance ahead of the far more experienced James Hook and Ashley Beck after Jonathan Davies suffered an arm injury against South Africa last weekend that will keep him out of action for up to four months.
Gatland has used this period in the past to blood Leigh Halfpenny, George North and Alex Cuthbert and, if Allen has a physical presence not too far removed from Wales’s other injured centre, Jamie Roberts, he has used Sonny Bill Williams, New Zealand’s master of the offload, as his model.
“I am in shock,” said Allen, who has played for Wales Under-20s and in Sevens. “I never expected this to happen so soon. My ambition after coming back from the shoulder operation was to play a few games for the Blues and hold a place down in the side. I am nervous but excited.”
While Allen will be running out for his first Wales cap, the prop Gethin Jenkins will be doing it for the 100th time, the fourth player to achieve the feat for the men in red after Gareth Thomas, Stephen Jones and Martyn Williams. “It is a fantastic milestone for him,” said Gatland.
Allen is one of four changes from the side that lost to South Africa last weekend, all except one of them enforced. Rhodri Jones replaces his namesake Adam, who will miss the rest of the series with a calf problem, at tighthead prop. Justin Tipuric returns to form the back-row combination that played against England last March with Dan Lydiate ruled out by ankle trouble, while Dan Biggar takes over from Rhys Priestland at outhalf.
Bakkies Botha, 34, will make his first appearance for South Africa since the 2011 World Cup as one of five changes to the starting team for Sunday’s match against Scotland. The lock was surprisingly recalled just when his international career appeared over after leaving South Africa to join Toulon.
Philippe Saint Andre has made five changes to the France starting line-up for the test against Tonga in Le Havre tomorrow, the coach opting to overhaul a side that lost 26-19 to New Zealand last week.
Sofiane Guitoune will make his debut on the wing in place of Yoann Huget, while centre Gael Fickou will start an international for the first time after Florian Fritz was dropped.
Fulgence Ouedraogo comes in at openside flanker instead of Wenceslas Lauret and Sebastien Vahaamahina will start in the second row in place of Pascal Pape. Hooker Dimitri Szarzewski starts in place of Benjamin Kayser.