Wales kick-off a tough autumn international series against Australia a week on Saturday before taking on Georgia, New Zealand and South Africa, as Warren Gatland’s men build for next year’s Six Nations as well as the 2019 World Cup.
Gatland named an exciting 36-man squad last week with five uncapped players, and with the exception of some rather baffling omissions such as Scarlets centre Scott Williams, Wasps flanker Thomas Young, and Cardiff Blues scrum-half Tomos Williams, the squad is a good one.
The inclusion of creative ball players in midfield such as Gloucester’s Owen Williams, the Ospreys Owen Watkin and the Scarlets’ Hadleigh Parkes with the possibility that creative pivot Rhys Patchell may be tried at 12, clearly point to a departure from ‘Warrenball’ and to the desire to play a more expansive, ball in hand game.
Looking towards the World Cup in two years time as well as next year’s Six Nations, the matchday 23 is a nice blend of youth and experience.
Jake Ball keeps the four shirt with impressive Cardiff Blues youngster Seb Davies offering cover at lock. With the 21 year-old offering real impact off the bench for the last 20 minutes.
With Ross Moriarty out, in-form Scarlets flanker Aaron Shingler should start at six after returning to the international fold during the summer tour after a three-year absence.
Highly versatile Cardiff Blues backrower Josh Navidi-who can slot in at six, eight and seven and who has been a model of consistency in the domestic scene for some time, offers specialist cover at eight.
Bath’s Rhys Priestland who has enjoyed a superb start to the season should replace Dan Biggar at ten because he offers more of an attacking threat. With Wales’ apparent desire to play a more attacking game, the 48-cap former Scarlets playmaker fits in better to this style of game.
While the skillful Owen Williams starts at 12 to form an exciting dual playmaker axis with Priestland with Ospreys’ highly-exciting centre Owen Watkin covering 12 and 13 off the bench.
In a toss-up between Leigh Halfpenny and the Dragons’ Hallam Amos, we’ve gone for Halfpenny at 14 because of his world class place-kicking. If Priestland has an off-day with the boot, the Scarlets back can take over.
Halfpenny who has made a solid start to the season also offers more solidity in defence than the elusive Amos. Hopefully the former Toulon back will be encouraged to have a go with ball in hand and rediscover the attacking gifts he had when he broke onto the international scene in 2008.
With the diminutive Amos offering a real game-breaking threat off the bench as well as being able to cover the back three.
1. Wyn Jones
2. Ken Owens
3. Samson Lee
4. Jake Ball
5. Alun Wyn Jones (Captain)
6. Aaron Shingler
7. Justin Tipuric
8. Taulupe Faletau
9. Rhys Webb
10. Rhys Priestland
11. Steff Evans
12. Owen Williams
13. Jonathan Davies
14. Leigh Halfpenny
15. Liam Williams
16. Elliot Dee
17. Nicky Smith
18. Tomas Francis
19. Seb Davies
20. Josh Navidi
21. Dan Biggar
22. Hallam Amos
23. Owen Watkin