Three Wales players get first caps
14 June 2017, 09:11
Steffan Evans, Thomas Young and Seb Davies will pick up their first Wales caps when they start in the test with Tonga in Auckland on Friday.
Wing Evans, Wasps flanker Young and 20-year-old Cardiff Blues lock Davies are the three uncapped players in Robin McBryde's starting XV, with six more among the replacements.
It means an inexperienced side will take on the giant Pacific Islanders with Wales shorn of 12 of their best players who are on duty with the British & Irish Lions.
Davies is perhaps the most surprising of the selections and faces a daunting debut after making just a handful of appearances for the Blues this season.
McBryde said: "We have come here to get two wins from two games. This is not a development tour and we have selected a strong team.
"It's the next step for someone like Steff Evans. The regional coaches just see him getting better and better. Thomas Young has had numerous man of the match awards in the Aviva Premiership and it's a chance for him to try and repeat that on the international stage.
"Seb Davies has responded really well in training. There is a void to be filled at second row because of players being unavailable with the Lions and he gets his chance on Friday. The enthusiasm the youngsters have brought in training has been outstanding and we're looking forward to the game."
Captain Jamie Roberts partners Scott Williams in an experienced midfield partnership. But elsewhere there are new combinations for Wales to bed in.
Gareth Anscombe starts at full-back with Alex Cuthbert and Evans - who helped Scarlets to Guinness PRO12 title glory - on the wings. Gareth and Sam Davies are the halfbacks, with the latter making his first international start.
Nicky Smith, Kristian Dacey and Tomas Francis make up the front row with Seb Davies partnering Cory Hill at lock. Aaron Shingler, Young and Josh Navidi are the back-row forwards.
On the bench, only Cory Allen and Ellis Jenkins have experience of international rugby.
Ryan Elias, Wyn Jones, Dillon Lewis, Ollie Griffiths, Aled Davies and Owen Williams are all new faces at the highest level.
Lock Adam Beard has been troubled by a slight groin strain and wing Keelan Giles has had minor hamstring problems, but other than that Wales have a fit squad.
"This is such an exciting time in the careers of these young players," Roberts said.
"I am impressed by their enthusiasm and willingness to learn.
"Eden Park is one of the best venues in world rugby, and playing there makes you realise what a special place it is. It is up to the lads to take the atmosphere in. The stage is set for them to express themselves."