Mason Grady handed Wales debut against England as Warren Gatland makes plea for unity
Mason Grady will make his Test debut in Saturday’s Six Nations clash with England in a much-changed Wales lineup.
Head coach Warren Gatland has made nine changes to his starting XV, with Wales looking to avoid their worst start to a Six Nations campaign since 2007.
Cardiff three-quarter Grady has been propelled into Wales’ centres, with the uncapped 20-year-old backed for his full Test bow in a bold selection by boss Gatland.
Wales have suffered heavy losses to Ireland and Scotland to start their Six Nations campaign, but will be galvanised by this week’s civil war between players and union that almost led to a strike.
"We’ve given Mason Grady a first cap. He’s a big lad, he’s got some really lovely rugby skills and offloading ability,” said Gatland. “He’s quick, so he’s the kind of centre that I think is going to have it all going forward.
“He’s got a good rugby head on him. He’s still pretty inexperienced so the big message to him has been, ‘what’s the biggest thing you need to work on?’
“He said, 'keep talking and keep communicating', so that’s been the focus for him and I’ve been really happy with him in training.”
Wales’ players and union chiefs only brokered a deal to avoid a strike on Wednesday night. The Welsh Rugby Union finally agreed to lift the freeze on offering and agreeing new contracts for next season that had left at least 90 players whose deals expire this summer in limbo.
The overseas-based players selection limit has been dropped to 25 caps, while contractual issues have also been resolved. Gatland has told his players to forget the internecine strife and focus on a massive challenge ahead on Saturday.
"The message to the players has been let’s draw a line in the sand in terms of what’s been going on and focus completely on the rugby,” said Gatland. “We know the history of Wales and England; what that means to everyone in Wales, so we’ve got to go out there and give a good performance.
"For both teams this is a massive game because we win on Saturday and we can get things on track a little bit more. For England it’s a huge game because if you look at their final two games that’s a challenge too, so it’s a huge moment in this competition."
Wales team to face England in Six Nations
L Halfpenny; J Adams, M Grady, J Hawkins, L Rees-Zammit; O Williams, T Williams; G Thomas, K Owens, T Francis, A Beard, AW Jones, C Tshiunza, J Tipuric, T Faletau.
Replacements: B Roberts, R Carre, D Lewis, D Jenkins, T Reffell, K Hardy, D Biggar, N Tompkins.