Wales boss Wayne Pivac ‘excited’ to see Josh Macleod on international stage

Wales boss Wayne Pivac hopes it is a case of “third time lucky” for Josh Macleod after handing him his Test match debut.

The Scarlets forward, who packs down at number eight against Georgia on Saturday, was selected to start in Wales’ Six Nations appointment with Scotland last year, but ruptured his Achilles tendon during a training session four days before the game.

He also gained selection for Wales’ 2020 autumn squad, yet a hamstring injury ruled him out of that campaign.

The 26-year-old offers Wales options across the back-row, although it is his first appearance in the number eight shirt since he played there for the Scarlets in January 2019.

“We had a couple of unit sessions this morning and Josh was flying into it. He is not holding back,” Pivac said.

“Josh has been selected twice before and has picked up injuries, so it is third time lucky. We are excited to see him go.

“We’ve wanted to use him on a couple of occasions. We know a lot about him, I have coached him at the Scarlets.

“He brings a lot of energy, he is very strong over the ball and in tandem with Jac Morgan hopefully that will be a strong part of our game on the weekend.”

Pivac has also called up centre Owen Watkin, wing Josh Adams, fly-half Rhys Priestland and lock Ben Carter, along with Morgan.

And there are two uncapped players among the replacements in 19-year-old Exeter lock Dafydd Jenkins and Scarlets scrum-half Dane Blacker.

Full-back Leigh Halfpenny, who last played for Wales 16 months ago, is also on the bench, but former Wales captain Alun Wyn Jones misses out on a matchday 23 place for the second successive game.

Jenkins captained Exeter in their Gallagher Premiership game against London Irish last weekend, and a first Wales cap now awaits.

Pivac added: “He is back on the playing field and in a leadership role at Exeter, so we think it is a good time to get him in the environment.

“He has been in camp before, helping us prepare for South Africa, and he did well in a live internal match.

“We want to have a look at him, and we think this is the obvious time do that, and Al (Jones) will be fresh for next week.

“He (Jenkins) is a big man, he’s only young, but he has got quite a bit of experience for his age.

“With Rob Baxter (Exeter rugby director) having him in the leadership group there, it speaks volumes of how he is thought about there.”

Pivac has retained nine of the team that started in last weekend’s victory over Argentina, when Wales bounced back strongly from a 55-23 drubbing against New Zealand seven days earlier.

And they now tackle Georgia in a dress-rehearsal for next year’s World Cup pool meeting between the countries in Nantes.

“We’ve looked at them very closely and I think they are trying to move a bit more ball than they used to,” Pivac said.

“It is two very physical teams going at it and we are going to have to front-up, as we did last week, physically with the ball and without the ball.

“That is our challenge and we need to back up last week and go again for another 80 minutes. If we don’t go for the full 80, we will be in trouble.”