Justin Tipuric returns as Wayne Pivac makes nine changes for Italy clash

By Andrew Baldock, PA Rugby Union Correspondent
·3-min read

Wales head coach Wayne Pivac has made nine changes to the starting line-up for their final Autumn Nations Cup match against Italy in Llanelli on Saturday.

Flanker Justin Tipuric, who missed the 24-13 loss to England last weekend because of a head knock, returns to the back row alongside James Botham and Taulupe Faletau.

Other switches include a start for George North at outside centre, with Bristol’s Callum Sheedy and Scarlets number nine Kieran Hardy named as half-backs.

Wing North’s last Wales start in the number 13 shirt was against Italy in February, when he helped his side to a 42-0 victory.

Pivac has selected a new front row of Nicky Smith, Sam Parry – who makes his first Test start – and Tomas Francis, with lock Will Rowlands replacing Jake Ball.

Botham retains his place and moves from openside to blindside flanker, accommodating Tipuric’s return, with one other change seeing a fit-again Liam Williams returning at full-back instead of Leigh Halfpenny.

Pivac said: “Saturday is another opportunity for these players, and for us as a squad it is another opportunity to continue to build and to see the results of all the hard work in training.

Wales v Italy – Guinness Six Nations – Principality Stadium
Wales flanker Justin Tipuric (David Davies/PA)

“We have blooded eight new caps this campaign and importantly by the end of the match each of them would have had a number of appearances to their name.

“From the outset we wanted this campaign to be about giving players opportunity and we have done that.

“The hard work in training is coming through and we want to show that again on Saturday and finish the campaign on a high with the performance and result we want.”

Wales have won just two of their nine Tests since Pivac succeeded Warren Gatland last year, beating Italy and Georgia.

Pivac’s team announcement for the Italy game came 24 hours earlier than expected.

And it is an opportunity for players like Sheedy, Parry, Botham and Gloucester wing Louis Rees-Zammit to continue encouraging progress shown during the autumn fixtures.

“Dan (fly-half Dan Biggar) played pretty well against England, and we know what he can do,” Pivac said.

“This game was going to be one where we continued the trend of giving guys opportunities.

“Callum went well against Georgia and this will be a step up. We are learning a lot about the players.”

Josh Navidi will miss out
Josh Navidi will miss out (Adam Davy/PA)

Wales will again be without back-row forward Josh Navidi, who has been recovering from concussion and not featured in any of the autumn Tests, while flanker Ross Moriarty recently underwent ankle surgery and could be sidelined for eight weeks.

Pivac added: “He (Navidi) has been able to train for the last three weeks. It has just really been in the latter part of the week where he has just felt not quite himself, not 100 per cent, so we haven’t risked taking him to that last stage of going through the full contact.

“He will go back to regional rugby and hopefully he will get cleared to play in the next week or two and we will see him back on the field.

“We are improving slowly and I would not be surprised if we have a very good outing on the weekend.”