Wales v Australia: Alex Cuthbert recalled to face Wallabies

Alex Cuthbert


Millennium Stadium
Saturday, 30 November
17:00 GMT
Live on BBC Two, BBC Radio Wales, Radio Cymru & online; live online text; live Welsh on S4C

Alex Cuthbert returns to the Wales line-up to face Australia in Saturday's final autumn international.

The British and Irish Lions wing, who is one of nine changes to the side that beat Tonga, had been expected to miss the autumn series with an ankle injury.

Dan Biggar gets the nod at fly-half, while Scott Williams returns to partner Owen Williams at centre.

In the pack Sam Warburton returns as captain with Ian Evans partnering Alun Wyn Jones at lock.

Scarlet Scott Williams has recovered from a toe injury to be named in the midfield alongside Cardiff Blue Owen Williams, who scored his first try while winning his third cap in the 17-7 win over Tonga.

It will be Cuthbert's first Wales outing since his two tries helped them win the 2013 Six Nations title against England in March.

The winger's recovery from an injury suffered on 19 October when Blues beat Toulon in the Heineken Cup has been more rapid than expected.

Cuthbert, Leigh Halfpenny and George North make up a familiar Wales back three.

Gatland also welcomed Scott Williams' return as he and Owen Williams prepare to combine for the first time in the Wales midfield.

"It's great to have Alex and Scott available and they bring a lot of experience into the backline," said Gatland.

"Alex and the [Wales and Blues] medical teams have worked really hard to ensure he is ready for this weekend and it's great to be able to bring him back into the side.

"We thought Owen performed well in the centre against Tonga and he gets another opportunity on Saturday.

Owen Williams
Owen Williams scores against Tonga

At half-back, Osprey Biggar beats Scarlets rival Rhys Priestland to the role of partnering Mike Phillips at half-back, the sixth time Biggar and unattached Phillips have done so in 2013.

Gatland said: "Both of them have their strengths. And I spoke to Rhys and said it was a tight call, but we're probably going with the fly-half with the form at the moment in terms of playing with potentially a little bit more confidence."

Gethin Jenkins, who reached 100 caps in the 40-6 win over Argentina that preceded the victory over Tonga, returns alongside fellow Lion Richard Hibbard to the front row.

Rhodri Jones will start his third consecutive game at tight-head in the continued absence of Adam Jones.

Ospreys' Lions duo Evans and Alun Wyn Jones renew their partnership in the second row after starting all five of Wales' 2013 Six Nations games.

Blues lock Bradley Davies' shoulder surgery and Newport Gwent Dragons captain Andrew Coombs' back problem ruled them out of contention.

Evans partnered man-of-the-match Luke Charteris against Tonga.

But Charteris and Perpignan team-mate James Hook, plus Bath prop Paul James, have as Wales' clash against Australia falls outside the International Rugby Board's autumn Tests window.

However, winger North's deal with Northampton allows him full release for all playing and training duties with Wales.

And lock Evans faces two complications that could affect his availability to face the Wallabies.

Gatland says the lock has taken a knock that has prevented him from fully training this week, but is expected to do so on Thursday, but Evans could become a father at any time.

"He's probably got other things on his mind at the moment," said Gatland. "His wife's due [to give birth] today as well so we're just giving him a little bit of space.

"So we know we've got Ryan [Jones] to cover second row."

Jones is also back-row cover for a starting trio of Dan Lydiate at blind-side flanker alongside open-side Warburton and number eight Toby Faletau, with Justin Tipuric also a replacement.

On the bench Scarlets scrum-half Rhodri Williams, who made his debut as a second-half replacement against Tonga, gets the nod ahead of Cardiff Blue Lloyd Williams.


Team: Leigh Halfpenny (Cardiff Blues), Alex Cuthbert (Cardiff Blues), Owen Williams (Cardiff Blues), Scott Williams (Scarlets), George North (Northampton Saints), Dan Biggar (Ospreys), Mike Phillips (Unattached); Gethin Jenkins (Cardiff Blues), Richard Hibbard (Ospreys), Rhodri Jones (Scarlets), Alun Wyn Jones (Ospreys), Ian Evans (Ospreys), Dan Lydiate (Racing Metro), Sam Warburton (Cardiff Blues, capt), Toby Faletau (Newport Gwent Dragons).

Replacements: Ken Owens (Scarlets), Ryan Bevington (Ospreys), Samson Lee (Scarlets), Ryan Jones (Ospreys), Justin Tipuric (Ospreys), Rhodri Williams (Scarlets), Rhys Priestland (Scarlets), Liam Williams (Scarlets).

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