Wales move George North to centre in backline reshuffle

Gareth Anscombe make his first test start as Israel Folau is fit to start for Wallabies

Wales’ George North will start in the centre against Australia. Photograph: Getty Images

Wales’ George North will start in the centre against Australia. Photograph: Getty Images

 

Gareth Anscombe will make his Rugby World Cup debut for Wales at fullback one of six changes that coach Warren Gatland made from the side that beat Fiji for Saturday’s pool showdown with Australia at Twickenham.

Liam Williams, Wales’ regular fullback, starts on the left wing with George North moving to outside centre, a position he’s played three times during his test career, coincidentally the last of which was against the Aussies in 2014. It’s a reflection of the injury problems that have beset the Welsh in the tournament to date.

Paul James replaces the injured Gethin Jenkins at loosehead prop and Samson Lee is preferred to Tom Francis on the other side of the scrum. Luke Charteris partners Alun Wyn Jones in the secondrow and perhaps the most interesting choice is Gatland’s decision to pair captain, Sam Warburton and Justin Tipuric in the backrow in the absence of the injured Dan Lydiate.

It is the first time that they have started in the backrow together in the tournament with Warburton forgoing his traditional number seven jersey. Australia will be without the suspended Michael Hooper - he got a one-match ban for a shoulder charge on England fullback Mike Brown at a ruck - so Wales, playing their two opensides will be hoping to do to the Wallabies what they did to England at the breakdown.

Scott Baldwin, Sam Warburton and Gareth Davies will be making a fourth start at the tournament. Scrumhalf, Davies is the only player who has featured in all 240 minutes of Wales’ RWC 2015 campaign.

The Welsh have lost their last 10 test matches against Australia. The only two players in this starting line-up who have been on the winning side for Wales against Australia are Alun Wyn Jones and Jamie Roberts who both featured in Wales’ 21-18 victory over the Wallabies in Cardiff on 29 November 2008.

Meanwhile Australia coach Michael Cheika has included Israel Folau in his fifteen after delaying his team selection to see if the fullback could get through training on Thursday.

In all Cheika has made three changes to the team that beat England - former Leinster lock Kane Douglas replaces Dean Mumm, while the injured Rob Horne (wing) and suspended Michael Hooper (flanker) have been replaced by Drew Mitchell and Sean McMahon respectively.

“Every player in our squad knows the improvements required, and we still have two days to continue to make them, both individually and as a team,” Cheika said upon the announcement of his team.

“Saturday night at Twickenham is another opportunity for us to put in a solid performance and continue to build towards the next stage of the tournament.”

Wales: G Anscombe; A Cuthbert, G North, J Roberts, L Williams; D Biggar, G Davies; P James, S Baldwin, S Lee; L Charteris, A Wyn Jones; S Warburton (capt), J Tipuric, T Faletau.

Replacements: K Owens, A Jarvis, T Francis, J Ball, R Moriarty, Lloyd Williams, R Priestland, J Hook.

Australia: I Folau; A Ashley-Cooper, T Kuridrani, M Giteau, D Mitchell; B Foley, W Genia; S Sio, S Moore, S Kepu; K Douglas, D Mumm; S Fardy, S McMahon, D Pocock.

Replacements: T Polota-Nau, J Slipper, G Holmes, R Simmons, B MCCalman, N Phipps, M Toomua, K Beale.

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