Wales: Taulupe Faletau set for 100th Test appearance while Alun Wyn Jones and Leigh Halfpenny return to the XV

Colin Newboult

Number eight Taulupe Faletau will reach a century of Test appearances when he plays for Wales in their Autumn Nations Series clash against Australia in Cardiff.

The back-row will win his 95th Welsh cap to go alongside the five he has earned for the British and Irish Lions on the 2013, 2017 and 2021 tours.

Faletau is joined by Jac Morgan and captain Justin Tipuric in the loose trio.

Former skipper returns

In front of those three will be record cap holder Alun Wyn Jones, who starts his first game during the end-of-year internationals.

Wayne Pivac has preferred to use Will Rowlands and Adam Beard in tandem recently but, following Rowlands’ injury and Wales’ desperation to get a win, the head coach is utilising Jones’ vast experience.

Behind the scrum, there is a debut for Ospreys playmaker Joe Hawkins following Owen Watkin’s injury and he partners George North at centre.

There is no Louis Rees-Zammit due to the match falling outside the international window, which means Leigh Halfpenny gets a first start since July 2021 at full-back.

Halfpenny is joined by Alex Cuthbert and Rio Dyer in the back three, with the Dragons man preferred to Josh Adams on the left wing.

Adams is on the bench, however, alongside Ryan Elias, Rhodri Jones, Tomas Francis, Ben Carter, Josh Macleod, Kieran Hardy and Rhys Priestland.

Pivac said: “The whole squad is extremely disappointed with last week’s performance (against Georgia). It’s not the result that anybody wanted. It’s not the result that anyone expected.

“We’ve gone through a review process. We know what went wrong and what is required to get the result this weekend.

“There’s been an injury to Owen Watkin which gives an opportunity to young Joe Hawkins. He’s obviously very excited.

“He’s been in camp training for the last month and learning a lot and he’s looked good in training, so he gets an opportunity.

“Some players have come back that were not involved last week. Certainly, it’s a side we’ve selected to get a result which we’re desperately seeking. They’ve gelled well at the start of the week, and we look forward to seeing how we go.

A step up

“Clearly this will be a step up – we’re playing an Australian side that will have a lot of changes for probably similar reasons to ourselves over the last month or so with injuries.

“What we do know about Australia is that they’re a dangerous side whatever team they put out. We’ve seen that with the close games in this autumn series. So we’re expecting a very, very tough battle.

On Faletau making his 100th Test appearance, the head coach added: “Toby is a world-class player and it’s testament to his hard work and commitment that he’s making his 100th Test appearance this weekend. I know it will be a proud day for him and his family.”

Wales: 15 Leigh Halfpenny, 14 Alex Cuthbert, 13 George North, 12 Joe Hawkins, 11 Rio Dyer, 10 Gareth Anscombe, 9 Tomos Williams, 8 Taulupe Faletau, 7 Justin Tipuric (c), 6 Jac Morgan, 5 Alun Wyn Jones, 4 Adam Beard, 3 Dillon Lewis, 2 Ken Owens, 1 Gareth Thomas
Replacements: 16 Ryan Elias, 17 Rhodri Jones, 18 Tomas Francis, 19 Ben Carter, 20 Josh Macleod, 21 Kieran Hardy, 22 Rhys Priestland, 23 Josh Adams

Date: Saturday, November 26
Venue: Principality Stadium, Cardiff
Kick-off: 15:15 GMT
Referee: Matthew Carley (England)
Assistant Referees: Luke Pearce (England), Chris Busby (Ireland)
TMO: Joy Neville (Ireland)

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