WALES TEAM v FIJI
WALES FOCUS ON FIJI
There are seven changes to the Wales team for their final World Cup Pool D clash against Fiji at the Waikato Stadium in Hamilton on Sunday (kick-off 6.00pm).
The seven changes from the side who sealed an impressive 81-7 victory over Namibia last time out see Scarlets wing George North, his club-mate Rhys Priestland (outside half), Blues centre Jamie Roberts and Bayonne scrum half Mike Phillips all return to the backline. They replace Aled Brew (Dragons) and Stephen Jones, Jonathan Davies and Tavis Knoyle (all Scarlets).
North’s return sees Leigh Halfpenny (Blues) switch wings to the left side vacated by Brew and a further positional change in the centre sees Scarlet Scott Williams move out one spot to accommodate the return of Roberts at inside centre.
Wales’ most capped player, Stephen Jones (101), and centre Davies are on the replacements bench with scrum half Knoyle and wing Brew omitted from the 22-man match-day squad on this occasion. Up front, hooker Huw Bennett and prop Adam Jones return in place of Exeter Chiefs prop Craig Mitchell and Dragons hooker Lloyd Burns, with Burns on the bench.
In the second row Blues lock Bradley Davies is retained and partnered by Dragon Luke Charteris, with Osprey Alun Wyn Jones asked to provide cover as a replacement.
Elsewhere on the bench Blues scrum half Lloyd Williams keeps his place after making an impact last time out in New Plymouth, back rowforward Andy Powell (Sale Sharks) is also retained and Ospreys prop Paul James completes the line-up.
Not considered for selection this week were Shane Williams, who is recovering well from a thigh strain, Dan Lydiate (ankle) and James Hook (shoulder).
“Shane might have been available to us if we had pushed him, but he has taken a limited part in training this week and we are happy with the back three we have been able to put on the field for this game,”said Wales head coach Warren Gatland.
“Alun Wyn (Jones) and Jonathan (Davies), are two of the players who have started in all three games so far and so we have freshened things up a little in the second row and the centre, but have both of them on the bench if we need them.
“In the front row Huw Bennett comes back in after resting up last week and Adam Jones also adds his extensive experience. Rhys Priestland, Mike Phillips, Jamie Roberts and George North are all also back in and we will be very much asking them all to continue where they each left off the last time they took to the field.”
Wales’ Pool D opponents South Africa and Samoa meet in Auckland and, with the meeting with Fiji not occurring until 48 hours later, Gatland and his charges will know exactly what they have to do before kick-off in Hamilton on Sunday night – but he is not expecting any change of mood as a result.
“Our focus is entirely on Fiji, we know if we can win one more game, and win it well, that will give us the best chance of reaching the quarter-finals of the Rugby World Cup with significant momentum,” added Gatland.
WALES: Lee Byrne; George North, Scott Williams, Jamie Roberts, Leigh Halfpenny; Rhys Priestland, Mike Phillips; Gethin Jenkins, Huw Bennett, Adam Jones, Bradley Davies, Luke Charteris, Ryan Jones, Sam Warburton (captain), Toby Faletau
REPLACEMENTS: Lloyd Burns, Paul James, Alun Wyn Jones, Andy Powell, Lloyd Williams, Stephen Jones, Jonathan Davies