Preview: Wales v Tonga
Thu, 21 Nov 2013 20:43
What will the margin be in Cardiff?
Warren Gatland will take charge of his 100th Test match when Wales face Tonga at the Millennium Stadium on Friday.
The New Zealander follows in the footsteps of compatriot and former Wales, British and Irish Lions and All Blacks head coach Graham Henry, who holds the record at 142.
Gatland has reached the landmark milestone with 38 matches as head coach of Ireland, 58 with Wales and three on this year's Lions tour of Australia.
"His record speaks for itself," said Wales forward Ryan Jones.
"The difference in the environment, the difference in the results - we've changed beyond all recognition from before.
"Warren has done that and he's been incredibly successful. We are judged on results in professional sport and under Warren we've won trophies. It's been a great few years."
At the other end of the scale, wing Hallam Amos will make his Wales debut, as one of 11 changes to the side that defeated Argentina 40-6 last weekend.
The Newport Gwent Dragons rookie was drafted into the squad following a back-line injury crisis, which has seen Jonathan Davies, Scott Williams and Cory Allen join Jamie Roberts and Alex Cuthbert on the sidelines.
Wales assistant coach Robin McBryde expects the 19-year-old to seize his chance.
He said: "It's a great opportunity for Hallam. He is playing alongside Leigh Halfpenny and George North. It is just a case of getting out there and showing what he can do.
"At regional level we have seen glimpses of that. He is a great runner with the ball in hand. No doubt he will be tested, but that's international rugby.
"Undoubtedly he's got the potential, it is just a case of delivering on Friday night. He has shown up well in training so we are really looking forward to watching him."
Owen Williams and Ashley Beck form a new midfield partnership, while James Hook and Lloyd Williams come in at half-back.
Ken Owens and Paul James are handed starts in the front row, with Luke Charteris and Ian Evans, who returns from an Achilles injury, picked at lock. Jones captains the team from the back row where he is joined by Justin Tipuric and Andrew Coombs.
Tonga have never defeated Wales and go into the encounter on the back of defeats by Romania and France.
But they have been buoyed by the recent results of their fellow Pacific Islanders against the Six Nations champions - Samoa claimed a victory in 2012 while Fiji held on for a draw in 2010.
"We usually hit our strap in our last Test match," said Tonga captain Nili Latu.
"We had the upper hand against Romania and France but little things didn't go our way, but we've been working really hard to target this game against Wales.
"Any player that takes the field for Wales will give 100 percent, but at the same time there's an opportunity there for us as well. We're bridging the gap, especially Samoa and Fiji. It's really good seeing our Pacific brothers doing well."
Head coach Mana Otai has made four changes to the side that lost to France, with Eddie Aholelei, Sila Puafisi, Viliami Ma'afu and Latiume Fosita all starting.
Players to watch:
For Wales: So much talent in this team - strike runners like Leigh Halfpenny and George North, while James Hook will be expected to dictate the terms of the game. Then there is Justin Tipuric, who may well be the spark that ensure the Welsh run the visitors ragged.
For Tonga: You seldom look past captain Nili Latu, as he is one of the most inspirational figures for this Pacific Island nation. However, the man that will get a substantial amount of the spotlight will be loosehead prop Eddie Aholelei - after the Melbourne Rebels No.1 replaced the suspended Sona Taumalolo in the Tongan front row.
Head to head: You simply can't ignore the set pieces, as that is where Wales are likely to dominate Tonga and shut them out the game. That means in the line-outs Ian Evans and Luke Charteris (Wales) will be expected to tower above Joe Tu'ineau and Lua Lokotui (Tonga). Now throw in the scrums, where Rhodri Jones, Ken Owens and Paul James (Wales) will look to get the upperhand over Sila Puafisi, Vaea Taione and Eddie Aholelei (Tonga).
2003: Wales won 27-20, Canberra (World Cup pool match)
2001: Wales won 51-7, Cardiff
1997: Wales won 46-12, Swansea
1994: Wales won 18-9, Nuku A'lofa
1987: Wales won 29-16, Palmerston North (World Cup pool match)
1986: Wales won 15-7
Prediction: You would expect Tonga to be energetic, putting in some brutal tackles. Some of it may upset the Welsh and throw them from their stride. However, despite the absence of a number of key players Wales till have too much class and should win - probably by 20 points or more.
Wales: 15 Leigh Halfpenny, 14 George North, 13 Owen Williams, 12 Ashley Beck, 11 Hallam Amos, 10 James Hook, 9 Lloyd Williams, 8 Ryan Jones (captain), 7 Justin Tipuric, 6 Andrew Coombs, 5 Ian Evans, 4 Luke Charteris, 3 Rhodri Jones, 2 Ken Owens, 1 Paul James.
Replacements: 16 Emyr Phillips, 17 Ryan Bevington, 18 Samson Lee, 19 Dan Lydiate, 20 Sam Warburton, 21 Rhodri Williams, 22 Rhys Priestland, 23 Jordan Williams.
Tonga: 15 Vunga Lilo, 14 Fetu'u Vainikolo, 13 Siale Piutau, 12 Sione Piukala, 11 Viliami Helu 10 Latiume Fosita, 9 Taniela Moa, 8 Viliami Ma'afu, 7 Nili Latu (captain), 6 Sione Kalamafoni, 5 Joe Tu'ineau, 4 Lua Lokotui, 3 Sila Puafisi, 2 Vaea Taione, 1 Eddie Aholelei.
Replacements: 16 Suliasi Taufalele, 17 Taione Vea, 18 Tevita Mailau, 19 Hale T Pole, 20 Opeti Fonua, 21 Samisoni Fisilau, 22 Fangatapu 'Apikotoa, 23 David Halaifonua.
Date: Friday, November 22
Venue: Millennium Stadium, Cardiff
Kick-off: 19:30 (19.30 GMT; 08.00, Saturday, November 23 Tonga time)
Expected weather: Any fog will clear through the morning, then a dry day for most with light winds. High of 7°C and a low of 0°C
Referee: Mike Fraser (New Zealand)
Assistant referees: Craig Joubert (South Africa), Luke Pearce (England)
TMO: Carlo Damasco (Italy)
AFP & rugby365
|South African news|
|» SARU exceed profit forecasts|
|» Unbeaten Shimlas to host Pukke|
|» Hard road for Ikeys and Pukke|
|» Hat-tricks abound in Vodacom Cup|
|» Preview: Vodacom Cup, Round Four|