Wales names inexperienced rugby lineup to face Tonga
WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) — Veteran center Jamie Roberts will captain a Wales team featuring eight rugby players making their test debuts against Tonga on Friday at Auckland's Eden Park.
Roberts, a veteran of 94 test matches, is by far the most-experienced member of a Welsh team missing most of its stars. Several are playing with the British and Irish Lions team currently touring New Zealand, while others are injured.
Three uncapped players — left winger Steffan Evans, lock Seb Davies and backrower Thomas Young — are included in the starting 15.
Evans was the top try-scorer in the Guinness Pro12 competition last season, while Young was a European Player of the Year nominee.
Scrumhalf Gareth Davies will combine with flyhalf Sam Davies, while Roberts will be partnered in midfield with Scott Williams. Alex Cuthbert will start on the right wing and Auckland native Gareth Anscombe has been named at fullback.
Ellis Jenkins and Cory Allen are the only capped players on the bench.
"It's a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for our players to be taking part in this match at Eden Park and we expect them to make the most of it," coach Robin McBryde said. "We've got an average age of 25 in the match squad, but there are experienced heads in there."
Bristol center Siale Piutau has been named to lead a strong Tonga team.
Latiume Fosita will play at flyhalf outside scrumhalf Tane Tukulua. Cooper Vuna will start on the left wing and Nafi Tuitavake on the right.
Ben Tameifuna is at tighthead prop and veteran Nili Latu will start on the openside flank, bringing the experience of more than 50 tests to the Tonga lineup.
Tonga: Dave Halaifonua, Nafi Tuitavake, Siale Piutau (captain), Vili Tahitua, Cooper Vuna, Latiume Fosita, Tane Tukulua; Valentino Mapapalangi, Nili Latu, Dan Faleafa, Steve Mafi, Leva Fifita, Ben Tameifuna, Paula Ngauamo, Latu Talakai. Replacements: Suliasi Taufalele, Sila Puafisi, Phil Kite, Sione Tau, Mike Faleafa, Leon Fukofuka, Kali Hala, Kiti Taimani.
Wales: Gareth Anscombe, Alex Cuthbert, Scott Williams, Jamie Roberts (captain), Steffan Evans, Sam Davies, Gareth Davies; Nicky Smith, Kristian Dacey, Tomas Francis, Seb Davies, Cory Hill, Aaron Shingler, Thomas Young, Josh Navidi. Replacementss: Ryan Elias, Wyn Jones, Dillon Lewis, Ellis Jenkins, Ollie Griffiths, Aled Davies, Owen Williams, Cory Allen.