Wales Team for Samoa :: 15 Nov 11:40
Ryan Jones will lead Wales for a record 29th time in the Dove Men Series clash with Samoa at the Millennium Stadium on Friday night (Kick-off 7.30pm).
Jones takes the record from Ieuan Evans and is handed the armband after squad captain Sam Warburton has been moved to the bench in one of five changes to the forward pack made for the visit of the South Sea Islanders.
A total of eight changes have been made to the starting line-up which went down to Argentina in the series opener, with three of those enforced through injury and the rest largely due to a desire from the coaches to make full use of their squad for the series.
Up front Ospreys flanker Justin Tipuric takes over from Warburton with fellow Osprey Jones also joining the back row in place of the injured Josh Turnbull (Scarlets). Blues lock Bradley Davies comes into the second row in place of the injured Alun Wyn Jones (Ospreys) – with both Turnbull and Jones ruled out for the rest of the series.
Osprey Richard Hibbard starts in the front row, replacing Scarlets hooker Matthew Rees, who was unavailable for selection this week with a calf problem. Bath prop Paul James completes the changes up front replacing Toulon’s Gethin Jenkins, who provides cover from the bench.
In the backs Mike Phillips (Bayonne) replaces Scarlets scrum half Tavis Knoyle and Osprey Dan Biggar comes in for Scarlets fly-half Rhys Priestland. Finally Ashley Beck (Ospreys) completes his return from a hip injury to partner Jamie Roberts (in the centre) in place of Scarlet Scott Williams – with all three Scarlets players included in the reserves.
Scarlets hooker Ken Owens and Blues prop Scott Andrews provide the front row cover on the bench and Perpignan lock Luke Charteris completes the reserves.
“With a short six day turnaround it was important for us to freshen things up and also make use of the competition for places we have within this squad,something which has been a key ingredient for the success of the squad over the last 18 months,” said Wales interim head coach Rob Howley.
“In making changes we also needed to bring in some genuine experience. It is important to have leaders throughout the team and we are hoping the likes of Mike Phillips, who made a positive impact last week, can bring his experience to the side.
“Ryan reaches an impressive personal milestone, it will be a huge honour for him but in the context of what happened last week his and the team’s priorities are about producing a performance.
“We know we are under pressure to perform and that pressure is greatest from within. This squad has shown in the past that we have the character and resilience to get back to winning ways. We have every confidence that we will come back strongly on Friday night.”
If Wales beat Samoa on Friday night Ryan Jones will take another record, this time of his interim head coach Howley – the pair currently share top billing with 15 wins each as captain.
Wales: Leigh Halfpenny; Alex Cuthbert, Ashley Beck, Jamie Roberts, George North; Dan Biggar, Mike Phillips; Paul James, Richard Hibbard, Aaron Jarvis, Bradley Davies, Ian Evans, Ryan Jones (Capt), Justin Tipuric, Toby Faletau
Replacements: Ken Owens, Gethin Jenkins, Scott Andrews, Luke Charteris, Sam Warburton, Tavis Knoyle, Rhys Priestland, Scott Williams