Warren Gatland and Rob Howley have announced their squad to face Scotland this weekend in the first game of the 2018 Under Armour Series. The two sides will play for the ‘Doddie Weir’ Cup – raising awareness and funds for his charity supporting MND.
Here is Robert Rees’ take on the Wales squad announcement ahead of the opening Test of Autumn.
Wales squad announcement
TEAM NEWS 🏴 Luke Morgan starts on the wing, with fly-half Jarrod Evans on the bench for Under Armour Series opener against Scotland. #WALvSCO
— Welsh Rugby Union 🏉 (@WelshRugbyUnion) 1 November 2018
The Wales squad announcement has given a lot of people what they expected to see in terms of names on the field, but Gatland has also chucked in a few curveballs.
Dillon Lewis, 22, will start for his sixth cap following a hamstring injury to Samson Lee. He is joined by Nicky Smith who’ll be looking at attempting to solidify his spot in the starting loosehead position.
The forwards on the bench are a much younger crop than the ones that will start with the coaching team firmly looking at developing depth ahead of next year’s Rugby World Cup. An average age of just 23 among the forwards gives Wales a host of opportunity ahead of the Six Nations and then the World Cup.
Dan Lydiate may be slightly out of form and there is a fair shout for Aaron Wainwright to start instead, but providing Wainwright gets some solid game time this autumn fans won’t be complaining ahead of next year’s test matches.
Backline out to impress
Gareth Anscombe will have his first major shot at making the 10 shirt his own following a concussion to Rhys Patchell which has affected his game time recently. Anscombe has marshalled the Cardiff Blues to some impressive performances over the last 12 months or so, helping them to achieve Champions Cup rugby and a Challenge Cup trophy.
It’s a shame Welsh fans won’t see the Cardiff Blues half back pairing with Tomos Williams from the start, but Gareth Davies is more than capable of delivering a result. Gatland will already know what Davies delivers and should have given Williams his chance, but with three more tests to follow plus a Six Nations and then warm-up tests prior to the World Cup he’s sure to have his moment to shine.
Hadleigh Parkes and Jon Davies in the centre positions will keep the Wales attack in steady flow as well as becoming the cog in the defensive line. Ever present at the Scarlets the partnership is sure to be one of the best at the World Cup providing they can both stay fit.
With debutant Luke Morgan on form for the Ospreys he’s sure to benefit from having such an experienced set of players inside of him as he looks to extend his try scoring form. Fellow Ospreys winger George North will be hoping his try scoring run continues.
Jarrod Evans lines up for his first cap if he comes off the bench and could well form an all Blues partnership with Williams at some stage. Something to watch-out for going forwards
Gatland testing the waters
Warren Gatland definitely testing his younger squad members in this match to see what they are capable of. A stronger squad and larger depth will improve Wales’ chances of reaching the extended rounds of the World Cup.
Scotland are without several stars; as are Wales – due to the test occurring outside the international test window – and due to this the test was always going to be a chance to blood some less experienced players.
Adding debutants into the mix really livens the squad up with Jonah Holmes, also uncapped, to join the squad from the second test when Leicester are forced to release him. Welsh squads in recent years have been stale and predictable. Not this one. There is a genuine set of form players, a lot of depth which can be trusted to take the field and see out games as well as a youthful exuberance which spreads positivity going forwards.
Perfect opportunity to empty the bench
Emptying the bench literally may not be what the game needs, but utilising all eight replacements is going to be key in getting a result on the field as well as one off it. This is the real last chance to develop this squad into a team who can go out and compete at the World Cup and Gatland will ensure that Wales do so in the best way possible.
Scotland are going to do similar things with their team and so with a charitable side to the game taking onus over the match result then there’s an even larger window for squad development.
The opposition – what will Scotland bring?
ICYMI | Here’s your Scotland team to face Wales this Saturday in Cardiff for the Doddie Weir Cup! 🏆
— Scottish Rugby (@Scotlandteam) 31 October 2018
A strong Scotland squad that maybe just lacks a few key men who won’t be released by their clubs. It’s fair to say they’ll more than give Wales a good game as well as create enough chances to win it.
Reading from the Wales squad announcement, fans can expect a lot of try-scoring and powerful ball-carrying backs, with the likes of Huw Jones and Tommy Seymour sitting behind a strong pack led by captain and breakdown expert Hamish Watson.
Wales v Scotland – 2:45pm, Saturday November 3. Principality Stadium
Main image credit: Embed from Getty Images