Wales 'mix it up' for Tonga

Wed, 14 Jun 2017 09:22
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TEAM ANNOUNCEMENT: Wales will field an exciting blend of experience and youth against Tonga at Eden Park this Friday.

Three of coach Robin McBryde's eight debutants will start, including last season's Pro12 top try-scorer Steffan Evans, who lines up on the left wing.

Former Wales Under-20 forward Seb Davies will feature at lock, while European Player of the Year nominee Thomas Young packs down on the openside flank.

Gareth Davies (No.9) and Sam Davies (No.10) are named in the halfbacks, with captain Jamie Roberts and Scott Williams in the midfield. Alex Cuthbert starts on the right wing, and Auckland native Gareth Anscombe at fullback.

The front row is comprised of Nicky Smith, Kristian Dacey and Tomas Francis, as Cory Hill joins newcomer Davies in the second row. Aaron Shingler and Josh Navidi are named at Ni.6 and No.8 respectively.

Ellis Jenkins and Cory Allen are the only capped players on the bench, while Scarlets duo Wyn Jones and Ryan Elias and Cardiff Blues' Dillon Lewis form the replacement front row. Newport Gwent Dragons back row forward Ollie Griffiths, Scarlets scrumhalf Aled Davies and Gloucester-bound flyhalf Owen Williams complete the bench.

The game is part of the Pasifika Challenge double-header, which will see the All Blacks take on Samoa following the conclusion of Tonga v Wales.

The large Tongan population in Auckland is set to make the iconic Eden Park a home from home for head coach and 1999 World Cup-winning Wallaby Toutai Kefu's team.

"It's a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for our players to be taking part in this match at Eden Park, and we expect them to make the most of it," said McBryde, whose team has been based in Takapuna on Auckland's North Shore.

"We've got an average age of 25 in the match squad, but there are experienced heads in there. We'll need them all to be on top form against what will undoubtedly be a passionate, tough Tongan team.

"We've had a very good week in Auckland. The younger players have gained a valuable insight into what is expected of an international rugby player, with much of that being led by the senior players' example. That learning process will continue this Friday in Eden Park, and again when we head to Samoa for next Friday's Test match in Apia."

Wales: 15 Gareth Anscombe, 14 Alex Cuthbert, 13 Scott Williams, 12 Jamie Roberts (captain), 11 Steffan Evans, 10 Sam Davies, 9 Gareth Davies, 8 Josh Navidi, 7 Thomas Young, 6 Aaron Shingler, 5 Cory Hill, 4 Seb Davies, 3 Tomas Francis, 2 Kristian Dacey, 1 Nicky Smith.
Replacements: 16 Ryan Elias, 17 Wyn Jones, 18 Dillon Lewis, 19 Ellis Jenkin, 20 Ollie Griffiths, 21 Aled Davies, 22 Owen Williams, 23 Cory Allen

Date: Friday, June 16
Venue: Eden Park, Auckland
Kick-off: 17.30 (06.30 BST; 05.30 GMT)
Referee: Nick Briant (New Zealand)
Assistant referees: Paul Williams (New Zealand), Mike Fraser (New Zealand)
TMO: Ben Skeen (New Zealand)