WALES SQUAD v AUSTRALIA
Sam Warburton will continue as national captain for Wales’ Dove Men Challenge clash with Australia at the Millennium Stadium on Saturday, 3 December (2.30pm)– and he leads a 28-man squad which retains the majority of Wales’ much heralded 2011 Rugby World Cup side.
Shane Williams, who has announced his retirement from international rugby, plays his final match in Welsh colours, but the game is also billed as a ‘homecoming’ for the Wales squad which boosted national pride by reaching the RWC semi-finals in New Zealand and is a re-match of the tournament’s third-placed play-off game, which saw the Wallabies victorious last month.
Scarlets hooker Matthew Rees, who was originally set to lead Wales in New Zealand before withdrawing through injury, returns to the squad alongside two other players who featured in head coach Warren Gatland’s preliminary RWC training squad - Blues prop Scott Andrews and Ospreys flanker Justin Tipuric,
Ospreys pair Dan Biggar and Ian Evans both return to the international fold, with 22-year-old fly-half Biggar set to add to his eight caps after last featuring for Wales in November 2010 against Fiji.
Lock Evans, 27, made his last appearance three years ago, against New Zealand in November 2008 at Millennium Stadium,and will bid to add to the 16 caps which saw him make his debut on tour to Argentina in 2006 and earned him a Grand Slam winners medal with four RBS 6 Nations appearances in 2008.
Elsewhere three uncapped players join Wales’ RWC stars, Dragons flanker Lewis Evans, Blues wing Alex Cuthbert and Scarlets full-back Liam Williams all look to make their Wales and Millennium Stadium debuts.
“As we have gone with the majority of our Rugby World Cup squad we have maintained continuity by selecting Sam again as captain for this game, but it is a significant boost for us to have someone of the experience and stature of Matthew Rees back in the squad which, in turn, means there is considerable competition in the hooker’s position with both Huw Bennett and Lloyd Burns also with us,”said Gatland.
“The fans have a chance to show the players how proud they are of them after their World Cup performances and it should be quite an occasion at the Millennium Stadium, especially with the Shane Williams factor thrown in, but we won’t be sitting back and soaking up the atmosphere - Shane will want to go out in style and this squad wants to, and needs to, get back to winning ways.
“We have another chance to beat a Southern Hemisphere team, which is always a yardstick by which we measure ourselves, we have the opportunity to avenge the play-off defeat in New Zealand, but we can also send a message to our Six Nations opponents next year, that our RWC performances should not be seen in isolation and this young squad will continue to be a force to be reckoned with as we build tothe next world cup in 2015.”
Welsh qualified players based overseas were not made available for selection.
Wales squad, Dove Men Challenge v Australia (alphabetical order)
FORWARDS: Scott Andrews, Huw Bennett, Ryan Bevington, Lloyd Burns, Luke Charteris, Bradley Davies, Ian Evans, Lewis Evans, Toby Faletau, Gethin Jenkins, Adam Jones, Ryan Jones, Danny Lydiate, Matthew Rees, Justin Tipuric, Sam Warburton (Captain)
BACKS: Dan Biggar, Alex Cuthbert, Jonathan Davies, Leigh Halfpenny, Tavis Knoyle, George North, Rhys Priestland, Jamie Roberts, Liam Williams, Lloyd Williams, Scott Williams, Shane Williams