Liam Williams has been preferred to Leigh Halfpenny at fullback as Wales named a full-strength team for their Rugby World Cup Pool D opener against Georgia at the City of Toyota Stadium on Monday.
Coach Warren Gatland is taking no chances after the difficult build-up for his side to the tournament, and with the key game in their group against Australia to follow on Sept. 29 he preferred to give his first-choice side a run in the opening game.
Halfpenny’ relegation to the bench is the only potential surprise, with the team to be led by experienced lock Alun Wyn Jones, who equals the Welsh record for international caps of 129 held by Gethin Jenkins.
Jones is partnered in the second row by Jake Ball, with Aaron Wainwright, Justin Tipuric and Josh Navidi making up the back-row.
Wainwright will make his World Cup debut and is selected ahead of Ross Moriarty, who may feel unlucky to have missed out in a squad that has enviable depth in the loose-forwards.
The halfback pairing sees Gareth Davies play alongside flyhalf Dan Biggar, while Hadleigh Parkes and Jonathan Davies make up the centre-pairing. Williams is joined in the back-three by wings Josh Adams and George North.
Wales’ only previous meeting with Georgia resulted in a narrow 13-6 victory in Cardiff in the November internationals in 2017, though Williams is the only member of Monday’s run-on team who started that game.
Wales will be delighted for the games to start after a difficult build-up to the World Cup that saw backs coach Rob Howley return home following an alleged breach of betting rules.
Team: 15-Liam Williams, 14-George North, 13-Jonathan Davies, 12-Hadleigh Parkes, 11-Josh Adams, 10-Dan Biggar, 9-Gareth Davies, 8-Josh Navidi, 7-Justin Tipuric, 6- Aaron Wainwright, 5-Alun Wyn Jones (captain), 4-Jake Ball, 3-Tomas Francis, 2-Ken Owens, 1-Wyn Jones Replacements: 16-Elliot Dee, 17-Nicky Smith, 18-Dillon Lewis, 19-Aaron Shingler, 20-Josh Navidi, 21-Tomos Williams, 22-Rhys Patchell, 23-Leigh Halfpenny.
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