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Evans among trio of starting Wales debutants against Tonga

By Jamie Smith
Scarlets winger Steffan Evans

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Wales have named three debutants in their starting XV to face Tonga at Eden Park on Friday, including Scarlets winger Steffan Evans, while Jamie Roberts has been named captain.

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Evans was the top try scorer in last season’s Pro12 and the 22-year-old also crossed in his side’s 46-22 thrashing of Munster in the final.

European Player of the Year nominee Thomas Young also earns his first cap along with forward Seb Davies.

Stand-in coach Robin McBryde believes the fresh blood in the squad will benefit Wales, with a further six potential debutants on the bench in the absence of 12 players on British and Irish Lions duty.

“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,” said McBryde.

“We’ve got an average age of 25 in the match squad, but there are experienced heads in there. We’ll need them all to be on top form against what will undoubtedly be a passionate, tough Tongan team.

“We’ve had a very good week in Auckland. The younger players have gained a valuable insight into what is expected of an international rugby player, with much of that being led by the senior players’ example.

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“That learning process will continue this Friday in Eden Park, and again when we head to Samoa for next Friday’s Test match in Apia.”

Wales: Gareth Anscombe, Alex Cuthbert, Scott Williams, Jamie Roberts, Steffan Evans, Sam Davies, Gareth Davies; Nicky Smith, Kristian Dacey, Tomas Francis, Seb Davies, Cory Hill, Aaron Shingler, Thomas Young, Josh Navidi.

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Replacements: Ryan Elias, Wyn Jones, Dillon Lewis, Ellis Jenkins, Ollie Griffiths, Aled Davies, Owen Williams, Cory Allen.

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