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Aaron Wainwright set for milestone in Wales’ first Test in Australia

By Finn Morton
Aaron Wainwright of Wales applauds the fans at full-time following the Rugby World Cup France 2023 match between Wales and Australia at Parc Olympique on September 24, 2023 in Lyon, France. (Photo by Hannah Peters/Getty Images)

Aaron Wainwright is set for a milestone international appearance on Saturday evening in Australia after being named to start at No. 8 when Wales take on Joe Schmidt’s Wallabies in Sydney.

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Six years after debuting for Wales in a 23-10 win over Argentina, the Dragons backrower will bring up international cap number 50 at Allianz Stadium in a run-on XV that boasts 306 Tests between them.

Wainwright, 26, is the second-most experienced player in Warren Gatland’s 23 for the first of two Tests Down Under, with fullback Liam Wright the outright leader in that regard with 90 appearances. There is also a quartet with 30+ caps and a Gloucester speedster in line to debut.

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Winger Josh Hathaway, who played for both Wales and England at U20 level, has been named for his first international appearance on the right wing. Hathaway will become the 1,207th men’s player to represent Wales this weekend.

Rio Dyer is on the other wing, while Liam Williams moves to fullback after wearing the No. 14 jumper last time out against the world champion Springboks at Twickenham.

“We’ve had a good week of preparations here in Sydney and are excited to get out on the field on Saturday,” coach Warren Gatland said in a statement.

“This first Test is going to be a great challenge for us. Test matches are all about fine margins and we know we need to be accurate, keep our discipline and stay in the fight for the full 80 minutes.

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“There’s a lot of talent within the Australia squad and we know they will want to come out firing and put in a performance against us this weekend.”

Captain Dewi Lake will start at hooker alongside loosehead prop Garth Thomas and tighthead Archie Griffin who is set for a special appearance of his own. This will be Griffin’s first time starting a Test for Wales.

Head-to-Head

Last 5 Meetings

Wins
3
Draws
0
Wins
2
Average Points scored
26
29
First try wins
60%
Home team wins
60%

The middle row includes Christ Tshiunza, who will wear the famous red jersey of Wales for the first time since last year’s Rugby World Cup in France. Tshiunza will combine with Dafydd Jenkins as the two locks.

To round out the forwards, Taine Plumtree has got the nod at blindside flanker, Tommy Reffell will start at openside, and milestone man Wainwright will bring plenty of experience to this forward pack with the No. 8 on his back.

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Halfback Ellis Bevan is set for his second Test appearance, and will combine with Cardiff Rugby out-half Ben Thomas. Mason Grady and Owen Watkin will line up in the midfield.

Dyer, Hathaway and Williams round out the rest of the starting side. Cory Hill, Sam Costelow and Nick Tompkins are among the eight players named on the bench.

The first Test between Australia and Wales at Sydney’s Allianz Stadium will get underway at 10:45  BST / 19:45 local time on Saturday.

Wales team to take on Australia

  1. Liam William, 14. Josh Hathaway, 13. Owen Watkin, 12. Mason Grady, 11. Rio Dyer, 10. Ben Thomas, 9. Ellis Bevan, 1. Garth Thomas, 2. Dewi Lake (c), 3. Archie Griffin, 4. Christ Tshiunza 5. Dafydd Jenkins, 6. Taine Plumtree, 7. Tommy Reffell, 8. Aaron Wainwright

Replacements

  1. Evan Lloyd
  2. Kemsley Mathias
  3. Harri O’Connor
  4. Cory Hill
  5. James Botham
  6. Kieran Hardy
  7. Sam Costelow
  8. Nick Tompkins

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Tom 1 hours ago
All Blacks snatch another tight victory from England at Eden Park

First up to any of the ABs fans who accused us of “bluster” pre-series for saying it would be a competitive - I'm glad it turned out to be an excellent series to which the ABs were deserving winners and I hope next time a side tours you'll be a little more humble. I loved the heart shown by the English boys and how they managed to contain the AB attack for large parts of the series. Was very disappointed by the lack of cohesion and ambition ball in hand, we looked after the ball poorly and hardly went 2 phases without kicking it away. We're not giving ourselves enough opportunity to put phases together and build pressure. The ambition shown in the 6N against Ireland and France seems to have gone and our players look very hesitant with ball in hand, we look much better when Marcus is taking the ball flat and boys are running hard at the line. So frustrating when we're starting to build pressure in the 22 we go back to the grubber kick then find ourselves back on the half way line 10 seconds later. We've shown great success with our box kicking game but we need to leave the flipping grubber kick in the locker room. Like the Marcus Smith hail Mary miss pass that went straight to Mark Telea, we seem to have no patience. Sometimes we just need to recycle the ball and go again. Loving seeing Maro back to his best and Fin Baxter really impressed, Alex Mitchell looks to be one of the most complete 9s in world rugby, great around the base and impeccable kicking. Congrats to the ABs, far more dangerous and skillful than England. We contained you for large swathes but to shut down that amount of pace and skill for 80 mins is nigh on impossible. Managed to find a way to win and instinctively grabbed the rare opportunities which came your way. Finding ways to win in two tight test matches will I'm sure be a great experience for your younger players. Beauden needs to be in the starting 15, what a worldie.

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