Wales: Josh Macleod starts on debut as Wayne Pivac makes several changes

Wales huddle during a Test match. Credit: Alamy
Wales huddle during a Test match. Credit: Alamy

Wales head coach Wayne Pivac has handed a debut to number eight Josh Macleod after naming him in the starting line-up against Georgia.

Macleod will run out alongside captain Justin Tipuric and Jac Morgan in the back-row while Ben Carter and Adam Beard pair up in the second-row.

In the front-row, Dillion Lewis, Ken Owens and Gareth Thomas link up in the heart of the engine room.

Dangerous back-three

In the backline, Louis Rees-Zammit retains his role at full-back after impressing against Argentina and is joined by wings Josh Adams and Alex Cuthbert in an exciting-looking back-three.

Veteran George North pairs up with Owen Watkin in a powerful midfield partnership, while Rhys Priestland and Tomos Williams make up the half-back pairing.

On the bench, Bradley Roberts, Rhodri Jones and Sam Wainwright are the front-row options, while uncapped Dafydd Jenkins and Taulupe Faletau are the remaining forwards substitutes.

Meanwhile, possible debutant Dane Blacker is joined by Sam Castelow and veteran Lee Halfpenny in rounding up the matchday 23.

Pivac is looking forward to seeing Macleod flourish at Test level as Wales looks to target the breakdown.

“Josh Macleod’s a player that’s been really unfortunate in the past. We’ve wanted to use him on a couple of occasions, so this is very much third time lucky for him,” he said.

“He covers the back-row. We know a lot about him, I’ve coached him at the Scarlets. He brings a lot of energy, he’s very strong over the ball and in tandem with Jac Morgan hopefully that will be a strong part of our game on the weekend.

“We’re looking forward to seeing him go at this level and seeing the physicality that he will bring.

“The spine of the team is there. It’s very much about the here and now, we’ve got a game to play against Georgia and we have to be successful. But there’s also an eye to the Australia match.”

Young star

He added: “Dafydd Jenkins is a young player that we’ve had an eye on for quite some time now. He’s done well with the U20s and is doing very well at Exeter Chiefs. Talking to Rob Baxter, he’s very happy with what Daf is doing.

“Daf captained that side last week so his leadership is valued and already in camp for a very short time he’s picked everything up very quickly.

“We’re excited to see him go. There’s not many players like him in Wales and he’s definitely a player for the future and one that we think this is the opportunity to have a look at him.”

Pivac continued: “Georgia are a side that will be not too dissimilar to Argentina in terms of the forward play, they’re very strong up front.

“Traditionally they’ve been good in the set piece, good driving lineout and very physical.

“We need to back up the performance against Argentina, be a lot more clinical with the ball. We’ve challenged the boys again and I think a response will be what we’re looking for on the weekend.

“For us it’s about starting well – the last two matches we’ve gifted the opposition points early – so discipline early on is going to be important.”

Wales: 15 Louis Rees-Zammit, 14 Alex Cuthbert, 13 George North, 12 Owen Watkin, 11 Josh Adams, 10 Rhys Priestland, 9 Tomos Williams, 8 Josh Macleod, 7 Justin Tipuric (c), 6 Jac Morgan, 5 Adam Beard, 4 Ben Carter, 3 Dillon Lewis, 2 Ken Owens, 1 Gareth Thomas
Replacements: 16 Bradley Roberts, 17 Rhodri Jones, 18 Sam Wainwright, 19 Dafydd Jenkins, 20 Taulupe Faletau, 21 Dane Blacker, 22 Sam Costelow, 23 Leigh Halfpenny

Date: Saturday, November 20
Venue: Principilaty Stadium, Cardiff
Kick-off: 13:00 GMT
Referee: Andrea Piardi (Italy)
Assistant Referees: Pierre Brousset (France), Gianlucha Gnecchi (Italy)
TMO: Brendon Pickerill (New Zealand)

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