Wales v Georgia: Scarlets’ Josh Macleod to debut at number eight

Josh Macleod attacks for the Scarlets
Injuries twice deprived Josh Macleod of his Wales debut
Venue: Principality Stadium, Cardiff Date: Saturday November 19 To start up: 13:00 GMT
Cover: Commentary on BBC Radio Cymru and updates on BBC Radio Wales; live text commentary on the BBC Sport website and app

Scarlets backline Josh Macleod will make his Wales debut against Georgia in the unknown number eight role.

Coach Wayne Pivac has made six changes to the side that beat Argentina in the penultimate Autumn Test – but there’s still no room for Alun Wyn Jones.

Macleod, Ben Carter and Jac Morgan start in forwards, while Josh Adams, Owen Watkin and Rhys Priestland are named in fullbacks.

Uncapped duo Dafydd Jenkins and Dane Blacker are among the substitutes.

Exeter lock Jenkins, 19, was only called up to the team this week with Rhys Davies, second row for the Ospreys, to cover the injured Will Rowlands and Dan Lydiate.

Macleod’s patience rewarded

Macleod, 26, has waited a long time to be capped. He was selected to the 2020 Fall Test Squad but suffered a hamstring injury a day before the players teamed up.

He was named in the squad to play in the Six Nations in Scotland in February 2021, but an hour later he ruptured his Achilles tendon during a training session – an injury which left him ruled out for 11 months.

Macleod replaces Taulupe Faletau, who is named as a replacement, while Morgan replaces Lydiate.

Macleod’s last start at number eight was for Scarlets against Leinster in January 2019.

Number eight specialists like Ross Moriarty, Aaron Wainwright and James Ratti are not involved with the team.

“Josh is a player who’s been really unhappy in the past,” Pivac said.

“We wanted to use him a few times, so it’s really the third time he’s been lucky.

“He covers the back line. We know a lot about him, I trained him at the Scarlets.

“He brings a lot of energy, he’s very strong on the ball and in tandem with Jac Morgan, I hope that will be an important part of our game this weekend.

“We can’t wait to see him grow to this level and see the physique he will bring.”

On Jenkins’ selection as a replacement, Pivac added: “Dafydd is a young player who we’ve been watching for some time now.

“He’s done well with the Wales Under-20s and is doing very well at Exeter Chiefs. Speaking to Rob Baxter, he’s very happy with what Daf is doing.

“Daf captained this team last week so his leadership is appreciated and already in camp for a very short time he picked it all up very quickly.

“We’re delighted to see him go. There aren’t many players like him in Wales and he’s definitely a player for the future and we think this is an opportunity to see him.”

With Louis Rees-Zammit remaining at the back, winger Adams, replacing Rio Dyer, will start his first game in nearly a month after suffering a hand injury while playing for Cardiff.

Fly-half Priestland is named in place of Gareth Anscombe, while center Watkin starts alongside George North with Nick Tompkins dropping out.

Leigh Halfpenny returns as a substitute after recovering from a hamstring injury.

Wales will face Georgia in Cardiff on Saturday, having bounced back from their loss to New Zealand to beat the Pumas.

“Georgia are a team that won’t be too different from Argentina in terms of forward play, they are very strong in attack,” added Pivac.

“Traditionally, they’ve been good from set pieces, good behind the wheel and very physical.

“We have to support the performance against Argentina, be much more clinical with the ball.

“We challenged the boys again and I think an answer will be what we are looking for this weekend.

“For us it’s about getting off to a good start – the last two games we’ve given the opposition points early – so discipline from the start will be important.”

Wales host Australia on November 26, which is outside the agreed global testing period and means England-based players will not be available.

The Wales team will face Georgia: Rees-Zammit; Cuthbert, North, Watkin, Adams; Priestland, T Williams; G Thomas, Owens, D Lewis, Carter, Beard, J Morgan, Tipuric (captain), J Macleod.

Replacements: B Roberts, R Jones, S Wainwright, D Jenkins, Faletau, Blacker, Costelow, Halfpenny.

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