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Eight changes for Wales, including a debut for winger Rio Dyer

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by Athena Pictures/Getty Images)

Wayne Pivac has named a Wales team to play the All Blacks on Saturday in Cardiff that sees eight changes – and a debut for winger Rio Dyer – from the 14-30 defeat suffered in their most recent outing against the Springboks. It was July 16 when the Welsh lost their Test-series decider in Cape Town and four months later, Dragons’ back Dyer will now become the 1,180th Wales men’s international when he takes to the pitch.

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Louis Rees-Zammit is also named on the wing in a team captained by Justin Tipuric, who is returning to the Wales XV for the first time since the 2021 Guinness Six Nations match against France. He is joined by Ken Owens (hooker) and Leigh Halfpenny (full-back), who will also make their first appearances for Wales in over a year.

Gareth Anscombe is at fly-half, having worn the No10 jersey in the same fixture last year, and Tomos Williams returns to the starting XV at scrum half. George North and Nick Tompkins partner in the centre for the fourth consecutive match.

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Alongside captain Tipuric in the Wales back row are openside flanker Tommy Reffell and No8 Taulupe Faletau. Gareth Thomas (loosehead) and Tomas Francis (tighthead) are the props while Adam Beard and Will Rowlands combine in the second row for the ninth time.

Pivac said: “It’s great having Ken Owens, Justin Tipuric and Leigh Halfpenny back. They bring a lot of experience and they are big game players. Playing New Zealand doesn’t get much bigger so we are really looking forward to having them back in the side.

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“New Zealand are going to play with speed, we know that. The roof is closed so we are looking forward to a fast, open game and Justin brings that extra bit of speed to the number six jersey. So the combination (of Tipuric, Reffell and Faletau) we think will work well.

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“Rio has fitted in really well and really quickly. He is thriving in this environment. He is a young man who is bringing some form with him into camp. He scored some great tries and is full of confidence. That means a lot to a young guy playing his first Test match in front of a big crowd. There is no better way to start your career so we wish him well.

“It doesn’t get much bigger than Wales New Zealand. I remember coming to games prior to getting this role and a full house, the bands and pre-match are just fantastic. We can’t wait for it, the players are looking forward to it and we just want the fans to get in there and be loud and really get behind the boys and be that 16th player that we know they are.”

Wales (vs All Blacks, Saturday)
15. Leigh Halfpenny (Scarlets – 96 caps)
14. Louis Rees-Zammit (Gloucester Rugby – 19 caps)
13. George North (Ospreys – 105 caps)
12. Nick Tompkins (Saracens – 23 caps)
11. Rio Dyer (Dragons – uncapped)
10. Gareth Anscombe (Ospreys – 32 caps)
9. Tomos Williams (Cardiff Rugby – 36 caps)
1. Gareth Thomas (Ospreys – 13 caps)
2. Ken Owens (Scarlets – 82 caps)
3. Tomas Francis (Ospreys – 65 caps)
4. Will Rowlands (Dragons – 21 caps)
5. Adam Beard (Ospreys – 37 caps)
6. Justin Tipuric (Ospreys – 85 caps) captain
7. Tommy Reffell (Leicester Tigers – 3 caps)
8. Taulupe Faletau (Cardiff Rugby – 91 caps)

Replacements
16. Ryan Elias (Scarlets – 30 caps)
17. Nicky Smith (Ospreys – 41 caps)
18. Dillon Lews (Cardiff Rugby- 41 caps)
19. Alun Wyn Jones (Ospreys – 153 caps)
20. Christ Tshiunza (Exeter Chiefs – 2 caps)
21. Kieran Hardy (Scarlets – 14 caps)
22. Rhys Priestland (Cardiff Rugby – 52 caps)
23. Owen Watkin (Ospreys – 33 caps)

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