WHO’S IN? GATS HAS GE­OR­GIA ON HIS MIND

South Wales Echo - - AUTUMN INTERNATIONAL -

WAR­REN Gat­land has re­vealed he will be mak­ing a lot of changes for next Sat­ur­day’s sec­ond au­tumn in­ter­na­tional against Ge­or­gia. So, how will the Wales team look? Rugby cor­re­spon­dent Si­mon Thomas con­sid­ers the op­tions and comes up with a pre­dicted start­ing XV.

15. Work­ing on the ba­sis that the ma­jor­ity of play­ers who started against Aus­tralia will be rested, that points to the two prime full-back op­tions – Leigh Half­penny and Liam Wil­liams – tak­ing a break.

That then could open the way for Hal­lam Amos to wear the No 15 jersey which he has donned for the Drag­ons this sea­son.

His coun­ter­ing from deep and abil­ity to beat a man would add an­other di­men­sion to the Welsh game.

Hal­lam Amos

14. With George North ruled out of the au­tumn in­ter­na­tion­als with a knee in­jury, the pow­er­ful wing op­tion in the squad is his long-time Wales team­mate Alex Cuth­bert.

The 46-cap Cardiff Blues man has come in from some fear­ful flak from key­board war­riors over the last year or so, but no-one tries harder and, in fair­ness to him, he has never hid, al­ways of­fer­ing him­self to carry the ball up.

Alex Cuth­bert

13. We wait to learn the sever­ity of Jonathan Davies’ an­kle in­jury, but the like­li­hood is he may well miss the rest of the au­tumn cam­paign, which raises the ques­tion of who will play at 13?

Re­al­is­ti­cally, you are look­ing at either Scott Wil­liams or Owen Watkin. Both are pri­mar­ily 12s, but both can oc­cupy the out­side chan­nel too.

Wil­liams’ ex­pe­ri­ence may well get him the nod in that con­text, with Watkin maybe hav­ing an­other out­ing off the bench. Scott Wil­liams

12. Given how well Owen Wil­liams went against Aus­tralia, there might be a temp­ta­tion to al­low him to build on that hugely-en­cour­ag­ing dis­play and bed in fur­ther at in­side cen­tre.

But Gat­land did make it clear on nam­ing his au­tumn squad that he wanted to look at two dif­fer­ent 10-12 com­bi­na­tions in the first two games, so, un­less he has had a change of heart, that’s what we can ex­pect to see.

Rhys Patchell hasn’t played in the cen­tre since he lined up there for the Blues against Glas­gow in De­cem­ber 2013, while it’s his form at fly-half with the Scarlets which has earned him his squad call. Rhys Patchell

11. It was a real mixed-bag per­for­mance from St­eff Evans on his first Test start on home soil.

In an at­tack­ing sense, he trans­ferred what we have seen him do with the Scarlets onto the in­ter­na­tional stage. He beat no fewer than nine de­fend­ers and took his try really well. But there were also a cou­ple of costly er­rors too.

How­ever, there were cer­tainly enough pos­i­tives to merit him be­ing per­se­vered with and what’s re­quired is an­other out­ing to iron out the creases.

St­eff Evans

10. Like Cuth­bert, Rhys Pri­est­land has come in for some pretty bru­tal crit­i­cism from the pub­lic in the past, but there was gen­eral pos­i­tiv­ity about his re­call to the squad, amid a recog­ni­tion of just how well he has played for Bath this sea­son.

It’s more than two years since Pri­est­land last started a game for his coun­try – against Uruguay in the 2015 World Cup –while it’s 18 months since his last cap. But he has fully mer­ited this sec­ond com­ing and it’s a big chance for him to stake his claim for a start­ing spot against the All Blacks.

Rhys Pri­est­land

9. A knee in­jury ruled Rhys Webb out of the reck­on­ing for the Aus­tralia game, but the hope is he will be avail­able to face Ge­or­gia and, if he passes all the re­quired tests, you would ex­pect him to start.

1. Rhys Webb Back in the day, Rob Evans would have been drummed out of the front row union for some of the stuff he got up to on Sat­ur­day, but what a de­light it was to watch.

Then, when he left the fray, on came Nicky Smith to make a real im­pact in the tight as the scrum got on top. Wales are well blessed at loose­head at the mo­ment, with Wyn Jones an ab­so­lute worka­holic wait­ing in the wings.

He may well get his chance off the bench against Ge­or­gia, with Smith start­ing, as Evans takes a breather af­ter his ex­ploits. Nicky Smith

2. Ken Owens is firmly es­tab­lished as the ex­pe­ri­enced, first-choice hooker and is odds-on to start against the All Blacks.

The Ge­or­gia game is now the op­por­tu­nity to have a look at his two rookie un­der­stud­ies.

Kris­tian Dacey caught the eye with his con­tri­bu­tion as a re­place­ment against the Wal­la­bies, com­ing within cen­time­tres of a first Test try.

You would ex­pect him to start this week­end, with El­liot Dee mak­ing his de­but from the bench.

Kris­tian Dacey

3. It’s a real shame that Sam­son Lee has been laid low with Achilles trou­ble be­cause he’s been ex­cel­lent for the Scarlets this sea­son, look­ing lean and mean.

The lat­est news on him is he is un­likely to be ready for the Ge­or­gia game, leav­ing Wales down to two fit tight­heads in To­mas Fran­cis and Leon Brown.

Fran­cis was on the field for 75 min­utes against Aus­tralia and you can ex­pect him to take a back seat this week­end, with the ball-car­ry­ing Brown mak­ing his first Test start.

Leon Brown

4. There was a real chang­ing of the guard in the sec­ond row with the an­nounce­ment of the au­tumn squad, as we bid farewell to Bradley Davies and Luke Char­teris and said hello to Seb Davies and Adam Beard.

Based on form this sea­son, Davies is maybe just ahead in the peck­ing or­der and he cer­tainly fits the bill in terms of what Wales are now look­ing for from their front five for­wards. He has the han­dling skills of a for­mer back and a real ath­leti­cism, both in the li­ne­out and in the loose. Seb Davies

5. Alun Wyn Jones re­mains an ab­so­lutely piv­otal fig­ure as skip­per and tal­is­manic in­spi­ra­tion. If any­thing, now at 32, he seems to be get­ting bet­ter with age, pro­duc­ing a col­losal per­for­mance against the Wal­la­bies.

He will have a huge role to play ver­sus the All Blacks, so it’s time to wrap him up in cot­ton wool this week and al­low him to recharge his bat­ter­ies.

As such, it will be an op­por­tu­nity for Cory Hill to make just his third Test start and build on his pos­i­tive cameo off the bench at the week­end.

Cory Hill

6. Hav­ing been an in­te­gral part of the team for the best part of five years, Dan Ly­di­ate has be­come some­thing of a for­got­ten man over the past 12 months.

It’s al­most a year now since he won the last of his 63 caps for Wales, with a se­ri­ous knee in­jury sus­tained in that game against South Africa con­sign­ing him to a lengthy lay-off.

He, per­haps more than any­one, has a real op­por­tu­nity to use this Ge­or­gia game to stake his claim for a start­ing spot against New Zealand.

Dan Ly­di­ate

7. The way Wales are look­ing to play now, keep­ing the ball alive, putting it through the hands and play­ing with width is right up Justin Tipuric’s street.

As such, fin­gers will be firmly crossed that he has shaken off his thigh mus­cle prob­lem suf­fi­ciently to start against Ge­or­gia. Justin Tipuric

8. Taulupe Faletau crammed a sea­son’s worth of han­dling er­rors into one game on the week­end, with a se­ries of un­char­ac­ter­is­tic lapses. But ev­ery­one is en­ti­tled to an off day and his class is per­ma­nent. So he will be a key man against the All Blacks and may well be kept in re­serve this week­end.

Josh Na­vidi has played a lot of his rugby at No.8 over the last cou­ple of years and can show off his un­ri­valled ver­sa­til­ity ver­sus the Ge­or­gians.

Josh Na­vidi

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