Wales make 13 changes for World Cup clash against Portugal
Wales head coach Warren Gatland has made 13 changes to the starting line-up for Saturday’s Rugby World Cup Pool C encounter against Portugal in Nice.
Gatland retains just two of the side – wing Louis Rees-Zammit and number eight Taulupe Faletau – that overcame Fiji 32-26 in a ferocious contest last weekend.
Co-captain Dewi Lake leads Wales after recovering from a knee injury, while scrum-half Tomos Williams wins his 50th cap and there are first World Cup starts for the likes of centre Mason Grady and lock Christ Tshiunza.
Lake suffered a knee problem during Wales’ World Cup warm-up game against England, but he now returns to pack down alongside front-row colleagues Nicky Smith and Dillon Lewis.
Tshiunza forges an all-Exeter lock partnership alongside Dafydd Jenkins, with fly-half Gareth Anscombe also back after injury.
Grady, meanwhile, is partnered in midfield by Johnny Williams, Leigh Halfpenny wins his 101st cap at full-back and another experienced campaigner – flanker Dan Lydiate – also features.
Prop Henry Thomas is the only player in Wales’ 33-strong World Cup squad who will not have started or been named on the bench across the first two games.
Wales’ bonus-point success against Fiji has set them up for a repeat performance against Portugal, who are the Pool C minnows.
They are at their first World Cup since 2007, although their pre-tournament form has been reasonable, including a 46-20 victory over the United States.
Gatland said: “We’ve made a few changes this week given the six-day turnaround.
“This is an opportunity now for this matchday 23. I have said before, but there is some great competition within the squad, which is what we want to see.
“There is a chance now for this group to go out Saturday and to put down their own marker in the tournament.
“We’ve done a thorough debrief of last week’s game and know the areas we need to improve.
“We have a clear plan of how we want to play on Saturday, and it is about going out there and executing that as we have prepared.
“Portugal are a skilful side and will be raring to go this weekend in their first match of the tournament. We are excited to get back out there.”
Wales team to play Portugal: L Halfpenny (unattached); L Rees-Zammit (Gloucester), M Grady (Cardiff), J Williams (Scarlets), R Dyer (Dragons); G Anscombe (Suntory Sungoliath), T Williams (Cardiff); N Smith (Ospreys), D Lake (Ospreys, capt), D Lewis (Harlequins), C Tshiunza (Exeter), D Jenkins (Exeter), D Lydiate (Dragons), T Reffell (Leicester), T Faletau (Cardiff).
Replacements: R Elias (Scarlets), C Domachowski (Cardiff), T Francis (Provence), A Beard (Ospreys), T Basham (Dragons), G Davies (Scarlets), S Costelow (Scarlets), J Adams (Cardiff).
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