James Hook will start at full-back and Jamie Roberts at inside centre as Wales look to hit back in the second Test against South Africa in Pretoria on Saturday.
Report courtesy www.planet-rugby.com
Speculation has been rife throughout the week as to where Hook would play, with many thinking he would take the twelve shirt. As it is Roberts, who started at full-back in last week’s 43-17 defeat, shifts to inside centre and Hook slots in at fifteen.
Roberts has not played at twelve four club or country and it will be a big test of his ability, as too for Hook who has very limited exposure at full-back.
In the forwards Dafydd Jones is dropped to make room for Gareth Delve, who will be starting his first Test match for Wales. Delve packs down at eight whilst Jonathan Thomas moves to the openside and Ryan Jones to the blindside.
Gethin Jenkins is the only front row forward to retain his place, Matthew Rees ruled out by injury and Adam Jones dropped from the squad altogether. In their places come Richard Hibbard and South African-born Rhys Thomas respectively.
Head Coach Warren Gatland, who described last week’s performance as humiliating, is confident his side will give a better account of themselves this time around.
“I am satisfied that we have selected a team which accurately reflects all the hard work in training and the match analysis we have carried out this week,” Gatland said.
“We know where we were left wanting in the first Test and we have made selections aimed at improving those areas on Saturday.
“We know what James Hook can do and we believe we need him on the pitch from the start as he is too good a footballer not to be used. He has gone well at full-back in training during some pretty intense sessions and he will be able to play a big part in the game from fifteen.
“Knowing how physical the South African midfield were last week, Jamie is the biggest back we had on the field so he will give us more “go forward” in the centre position.
“All three back row forwards we have chosen have vast experience in the positions they will play on Saturday and we believe it will give us a physical combination capable of improving our performance at the breakdown where we need to improve.”
Wales: 15 James Hook, 14 Mark Jones, 13 Tom Shanklin, 12 Jamie Roberts, 11 Shane Williams, 10 Stephen Jones, 9 Gareth Cooper, 8 Gareth Delve, 7 Jonathan Thomas, 6 Ryan Jones (c), 5 Alun Wyn Jones, 4 Ian Gough, 3 Rhys Thomas, 2 Richard Hibbard, 1 Gethin Jenkins.
Replacements: 16 T Rhys Thomas, 17 Duncan Jones, 18 Ian Evans, 19 Dafydd Jones, 20 Warren Fury, 21 Andrew Bishop, 22 Tom James.