Christ Tshiunza set for ‘great learning experience’ on Wales debut – Wayne Pivac

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Wales boss Wayne Pivac is relishing “a great learning experience” for uncapped Exeter prospect Christ Tshiunza as he prepares to hand the teenager his Test debut.

Tshiunza, 19, can play in the second-row or back-row and he will be among Wales’ replacements for Sunday’s Autumn Nations Series clash against Fiji at the Principality Stadium.

He was born in DR Congo but moved to Wales in 2010 and is a product of Whitchurch High School in Cardiff, whose past pupils also include Sam Warburton, Gareth Bale and Geraint Thomas.

“At 19, he is an athlete,” Pivac said. “If you saw him up close, he will be one to watch in the future, there is no doubt about it.

“We wanted to get him into the fold nice and early. It will be a great learning experience for him. He has trained well and is very enthusiastic.

“He got 60 minutes for Exeter on the weekend, which has been beneficial for his lungs and he will just enjoy the whole week. He will get some game time.”

Cardiff flanker Ellis Jenkins will captain Wales after delivering an outstanding performance on his return to Test rugby following a three-year injury absence when Wales were beaten narrowly by world champions South Africa last time out.

Pivac has given starts to Ospreys wing Alex Cuthbert – his 49th cap, but first Wales appearance for four years – flanker Thomas Young and scrum-half Kieran Hardy, while Josh Adams moves from wing to centre, where he is partnered in midfield by Johnny Williams.

Wasps flanker Young’s call-up is the only change to the pack, although Taine Basham switches to number eight instead of an injured Aaron Wainwright.

Behind the scrum, Liam Williams makes a first start of the autumn campaign, lining up at full-back, with Dan Biggar again wearing the number 10 shirt.

On 31-year-old Cuthbert, who moved to the Ospreys from Exeter earlier this year, Pivac added: “Alex has gone well in the Premiership. He forced his way into a very strong side and played well at the back end of last season.

“We think he is good to go and we are looking at depth. We want competition for positions and we think that Alex can add to the depth that we are building.”

Harlequins v Exeter Chiefs – Gallagher Premiership – Final – Twickenham Stadium
Wales international and former Exeter wing Alex Cuthbert (Nigel French/PA)

Adams’ 35th Wales appearance, meanwhile, will be his first not on the wing, a position from where he has scored 17 Test tries and excelled at the 2019 World Cup in Japan.

“It has always been in the back of our minds that he (Adams) has the ability and the skill-set to play in more than one position,” Pivac said.

“We want to see if he can do it at this level. There is a World Cup coming up and you want to build depth in all positions.

“When you can only take 33 (players) to a World Cup, having guys who can play in multiple positions is important.”

Pivac has made a solitary change of personnel up front, giving Young an opportunity, but there will be a continued spotlight on Wales’ scrum following misfiring displays against New Zealand and South Africa.

“South Africa are an exceptional scrummaging team and they’ve had success against top nations in the Rugby Championship,” he added.

“But there is also work to be done on our side. We’ve come in undercooked.

“Wyn Jones, coming back from the (British and Irish) Lions, knows he has some work to do to get to full fitness levels required to play at Test level.

“You could argue that Tomas Francis has some work to do, by his own admission, and then losing (hooker) Ken Owens (to injury) in the middle of that – the scrum has been weakened.

“But it is certainly something that the boys worked hard on today and they will be working hard on it for the rest of the week.”

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