Wayne Pivac hands Wales debut to Scarlets’ Josh Macleod for Georgia clash

Wales boss Wayne Pivac has handed Scarlets forward Josh Macleod a Test debut in Saturday’s Autumn Nations Series encounter against Georgia.

Macleod, who packs down at number eight, 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.

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

Leigh Halfpenny
Leigh Halfpenny will return to Wales’ matchday 23 against Georgia (Adam Davy/PA)

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.

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 Gloucester wing Louis Rees-Zammit keeps the number 15 shirt following an impressive switch to full-back in the Pumas game.

Georgia are in Wales’ World Cup pool in France next year, along with their final autumn opponents Australia.

Pivac said: “Josh Macleod is a player that has 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.

“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.

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

Jenkins, meanwhile, was only called into the Wales squad on Monday as replacement for the injured Will Rowlands.

“Dafydd Jenkins is a young player that we’ve had an eye on for quite some time now,” Pivac added.

“He has done well with the (Wales) Under-20s and is doing very well at Exeter Chiefs. Talking to Rob Baxter (Exeter rugby director), he is 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 has picked everything up very quickly.

“Georgia are a side that will be not too dissimilar to Argentina in terms of the forward play. They are very strong up front.

“We need to back up the performance against Argentina and be a lot more clinical with the ball.”