Priestland recalled as Wales change eight
ESPN Staff
November 11, 2014
Rhys Priestland has been selected to start at fly-half for Wales against Fiji © Getty Images

Wales have made eight changes to their starting XV to face Fiji at the Millennium Stadium this Saturday. Gethin Jenkins returns at loosehead and will captain the side for the fourth time, while regular skipper Sam Warburton drops out of the matchday squad altogether.

Full-back Leigh Halfpenny misses out with concussion and Liam Williams shifts from the left wing to full-back and George North from centre to wing as a result. Jonathan Davies has still not recovered from the shoulder injury that kept him out of Wales' defeat to Australia last Saturday, so Jamie Riberts and fit-again Scott Williams are paired in the centre. Mike Phillips replaces Rhys Webb at scrum-half and Rhys Priestland, who was booed when he took the field against Australia, replaces Dan Biggar at fly-half. Biggar was forced off with a groin problem on Saturday and not considered to play Fiji.

In the pack Jenkins replaces Paul James, who drops out of the 23, at loosehead and is joined in a new-look front row by Samson Lee and hooker Scott Baldwin, who comes in for Richard Hibbard. In the second row, Jake Ball drops out and Alun Wyn Jones is on the bench as Bradley Davies and Luke Charteris come in to make up an experienced combination. There's just one change in the back row as Justin Tipuric replaces Warburton on the openside.

Among the replacements are uncapped prop Nicky Smith and Gloucester fly-half James Hook, who was recalled to the squad this week in the wake of Biggar's injury.

"We have made a number of changes, but we are going out there with what we think is a strong side to take on Fiji," said Head Coach Warren Gatland. "The whole squad has been working very hard and were pushing for selection last week so it's an opportunity for them to start.

"We were pleased with the performance last week and we will be looking to build on that and get the result we want this weekend. We have made some changes, some have been enforced due to injury but we don't feel it weakens the side."

Jenkins was part of the Wales side that lost 38-34 to Fiji at the 2007 World Cup, while the two sides drew when they met at the Millennium Stadium in 2010. As a result, Jenkins is wary of the threat posed by the Pacific Islanders.

"I remember drawing with Fiji a couple of years ago," Jenkins said, "People of my age remember the 2007 game in France in the Wolrd Cup. They're expansive but they play the ball. The 2007 game was a down point in my career and the boys who played."

Gatland was also wary of making too many changes to his side, saying: "They (Fiji) will always be a tough game. They were close against France before they went away. Even though we've made 7-8 changes there's a lot of firepower in the team. We've tried to do it in the past and lost games by making 10-11 changes. You can't coach experience and it's about how you develop that.

Of his squad's injuries, Gatland said: "Dan Biggar had an outside chance of playing. We didn't consider Leigh Halfpenny at all but Jonathan Davies isn't ready yet. It will be tough to throw him in against the All Blacks as he hasn't played much rugby. The squad is feeling strong with depth."

Gatland also revealed that Rhys Webb, who scored a try against Australia, was set to start at scrum-half but suffered an irritable neck so Mike Phillips starts and Rhodri Williams takes his place on the bench.

Wales: Liam Williams (Scarlets), Alex Cuthbert (Cardiff Blues), Scott Williams (Scarlets), Jamie Roberts (Racing Metro), George North (Northampton Saints), Rhys Priestland (Scarlets), Mike Phillips (Racing Metro), Gethin Jenkins (Cardiff Blues, CAPT), Scott Baldwin (Ospreys), Samson Lee (Scarlets), Bradley Davies (Wasps), Luke Charteris (Racing Metro), Dan Lydiate (Unattached), Justin Tipuric (Ospreys), Taulupe Faletau (Newport Gwent Dragons).

Replacements: Emyr Phillips (Scarlets), Nicky Smith (Ospreys), Rhodri Jones (Scarlets), Alun Wyn Jones (Ospreys), James King (Ospreys), Rhodri Williams (Scarlets), James Hook (Gloucester), Cory Allen (Cardiff Blues).

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