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Wayne Pivac on Louis Rees-Zammit's 'exciting' positional switch

By PA
Louis Rees-Zammit /Getty

Wales will aim to start piecing their Autumn Nations Series campaign back together when they tackle Argentina on Saturday.

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New Zealand’s demolition squad put a huge hole in the autumn schedule last weekend, scoring eight tries during a 55-23 victory that posed way more questions for Wales than provided answers.

And life is not about to get a whole lot easier, with Argentina arriving in Cardiff on the back of victories over Australia, New Zealand and England.

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The Pumas brushed Wales aside 33-11 on their last Principality Stadium visit 16 months ago.

Wales have just four survivors in their starting line-up from that game for this weekend’s clash – Nick Tompkins, Tomos Williams, Gareth Thomas and Will Rowlands – but another king-sized task awaits a team with just two wins this year.

“It has been about bouncing back on the training field and putting things right,” Wales captain Justin Tipuric said.

“We are all hungry after last weekend.

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“Argentina are so passionate in everything they do and you know every time you play them you are in for a tough game.

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“They play to their strengths, and when they do that they are a very hard team to beat.”

Wales head coach Wayne Pivac has made just three changes, calling up wing Alex Cuthbert, prop Dillon Lewis and flanker Dan Lydiate.

The most intriguing selection call, though, is a positional switch from wing to full-back for Gloucester’s Louis Rees-Zammit, with Leigh Halfpenny and Liam Williams both injured.

Lydiate, meanwhile, packs down alongside Tipuric and number eight Taulupe Faletau in a back-row containing 246 caps as Wales target a morale-boosting success.

Pivac said: “It (New Zealand game) ended up as it did and we are disappointed, as everyone is.

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“There were some parts of that game which were just unacceptable at Test level, and we’ve talked around that and the boys have identified that themselves.

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“As a forward pack, we want to step it up this week and be a lot more physical than we were.”

Central to those efforts will be Faletau, who features on his 32nd birthday after a lung-busting contribution saw him emerge as Wales’ top tackler and ball-carrier against the All Blacks.

“To be successful at international level you have to have some world-class players,” Pivac said.

“He is a world-class player in my view and he keeps showing that time and time again.

“He came into camp off the back of an injury, he has worked really, really hard and he puts out a performance like that at the speed of that game, which is just totally different from what our players have been used to playing.”

Pivac, meanwhile, has described Rees-Zammit’s move to full-back as “an exciting selection for the future”.

“He has a big kicking game on him, a long kicking game, which helps,” Pivac said.

“He’s got pace, as we know, so the biggest thing is getting time in the saddle and understanding the positional play, at which someone like Leigh Halfpenny is obviously world-class. He has had a few conversations with Leigh.

“I think it is an exciting selection for the future, to give us another option. Liam and Leigh have shared injuries and shared the jersey, and with them both out we feel it is a good opportunity.”

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Flankly 3 hours ago
Resilient Irish will test Springboks despite provincial setbacks

The Bok kryptonite is complacency. How did they lose to Japan in 2015, or to Italy in 2016? There are plenty of less dramatic examples. They often boil down to the Boks dialing back their focus and intensity, presuming they can win with less than 100% commitment. This can be true of most teams, but there is a reason that the Boks are prone to it. It boils down to the Bok game plan being predicated on intensity. The game plan works because of the relentless and suffocating pressure that they apply. They don’t allow the opponent to control the game, and they pounce on any mistake. It works fantastically, but it is extremely demanding on the Bok players to pull it off. And the problem is that it stops working if you execute at anything less than full throttle. Complacency kills the Boks because it can lead to them playing at 97% and getting embarrassed. So the Bulls/Leinster result is dangerous. It’s exactly what is needed to introduce that hint of over-confidence. Rassie needs to remind the team of the RWC pool game, and of the fact that Ireland have won 8 of the 12 games between the teams in the last 20 years. And of course the Leinster result also means that Ireland have a point to prove. Comments like “a club team beating a test team” will be pasted on the changing room walls. They will be out to prove that the result of the RWC game truly reflects the pecking order between the teams. The Boks can win these games, but, as always, they need to avoid the kryptonite.

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