Wales ring the changes for most daunting test
Captain Sam Warburton and outhalf Rhys Priestland are among the five changes made by Wales as they face New Zealand on Saturday in what looks a mismatch of a meeting between the champions of Northern and Southern Hemisphere rugby.
The Six Nations Grand Slam winners, reeling after home defeats by Argentina and Samoa, made it five losses in a row, have also recalled lock Luke Charteris, hooker Matthew Rees and centre Jonathan Davies.
They face a huge challenge as they attempt to end the world champions’ 19-game unbeaten run by beating them for the first time in 25 attempts spanning almost half a century.
New Zealand, held to an 18-18 draw by Australia last month, have returned to winning ways with big wins over Scotland and Italy.
Flanker Warburton was rested for last week’s defeat by Samoa, playing only the final 10 minutes, and comes back for Justin Tipuric, who moves to the bench, while Rees replaces the injured Dan Biggar in the team named yesterday.
Davies returns from a groin injury to reunite his Six Nations centre partnership with Jamie Roberts and Wales will hope those big names can rediscover their best form in a hurry.
Coach Warren Gatland is back in charge of the Wales team after assistant Rob Howley led them for the Argentina and Samoa games.
“It is an honour to be playing the world champions,” said Gatland. “This New Zealand team is one of the best sides to have ever played the game and probably the best All Blacks team ever so it will be a privilege to be able to test ourselves against them.”
WALES (v New Zealand, Millennium Stadium): L Halfpenny (Cardiff); A Cuthbert (Cardiff), J Davies (Scarlets), J Roberts (Cardiff), G North (Scarlets); R Priestland (Scarlets), M Phillips (Bayonne); P James (Bath), M Rees (Scarlets), A Jarvis (Ospreys), B Davies (Cardiff), L Charteris (Perpignan), R Jones (Ospreys), S Warburton (Cardiff Blues, capt), T Faletau (Newport Gwent Dragons). Replacements: K Owens (Scarlets), G Jenkins (Toulon), S Andrews (Cardiff), A Shingler (Scarlets), J Tipuric (Ospreys), T Knoyle (Scarlets), J Hook (Perpignan), S Williams (Scarlets).