November 30, 2017 / 11:27 AM / a year ago

Rugby - Wales explore squad depth against under-strength Boks

(Reuters) - Wales will hand a debut to New Zealand-born centre Hadleigh Parkes a day after he becomes available to the team as one of five changes to their side for the test against struggling South Africa at the Millennium Stadium on Saturday.

Rugby Union - Autumn Internationals - Wales vs Georgia - Principality Stadium, Cardiff, Britain - November 18, 2017 Wales head coach Warren Gatland before the match REUTERS/Rebecca Naden

Coach Warren Gatland is exploring the depth of his squad with the next World Cup in Japan a little under two years away.

Yet after defeats to Australia and New Zealand already this autumn, he will not want to go into 2018 with another loss against what will be an under-strength Springbok side.

Inside centre Parkes, who only becomes eligible through residency to represent Wales on Friday, will partner Scarlets club mate Scott Williams in the midfield, while Gatland has also handed a start to scrumhalf Aled Davies.

The selection of Davies is a surprise, with first-choice Rhys Webb on the bench having come through concussion protocols this week, and the recognised second in line, Gareth Davies, not in the match-day squad altogether.

“We have spoken about exposing the squad to test match rugby and this weekend is a great opportunity for Hadleigh to earn his first cap and for Aled to make his first start of the campaign,” Gatland said in a statement from the Welsh Rugby Union on Thursday.

Britain Rugby Union - Scotland v Wales - Six Nations Championship - BT Murrayfield Stadium, Edinburgh - 25/2/17 Wales team huddle after the game Action Images via Reuters / Lee Smith Livepic

“Saturday is an opportunity to continue to build on what we have done so far and round off the autumn campaign with a big performance.”

Gatland has also made three changes to his forward pack with hooker Kristian Dacey and prop Scott Andrews coming into the front row alongside Rob Evans, while lock Cory Hill will partner captain Alun Wyn Jones in the second row. The loose-forward trio remains unchanged.

“We have had a couple of knocks from last weekend, with Ken (Owens), Leon (Brown) and Jake (Ball) unavailable, but that just provides an opportunity for Kristian, Scott and Cory to start,” Galtland said.

Wales have won both their previous two home matches against the Springboks, who claimed some revenge with a narrow 23-19 victory in the quarter-finals of the World Cup two years ago.

The Boks have been hit by the unavailability of their overseas-based players as the fixture falls outside the international window, and will name their side later on Thursday.


15-Leigh Halfpenny, 14-Hallam Amos, 13-Scott Williams, 12-Hadleigh Parkes, 11-Steff Evans, 10-Dan Biggar, 9-Aled Davies, 8-Taulupe Faletau, 7-Josh Navidi, 6-Aaron Shingler, 5-Alun Wyn Jones (captain), 4-Cory Hill, 3-Scott Andrews, 2-Kristian Dacey, 1-Rob Evans.

Replacements: 16-Elliot Dee, 17-Wyn Jones, 18-Rhodri Jones, 19-Seb Davies, 20-Dan Lydiate, 21-Rhys Webb, 22-Rhys Patchell, 23-Owen Watkin.

Reporting by Nick Said; Editing by Toby Davis

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