Wallabies have Beale at 15, Wales pick playmakers at 10 & 12
CARDIFF, Wales (AP) — Samu Kerevi’s form against Japan made bumping Kurtley Beale to fullback easier in Australia’s team to play Wales in their rugby test at Principality Stadium on Saturday.
Meanwhile, Wales also changed its inside center, giving Owen Williams his first start at home. With Dan Biggar and Williams, Wales has playmakers at Nos. 10 and 12.
Israel Folau’s sabbatical opened up the Wallabies fullback position, and rugby league convert Karmichael Hunt was favored. But Kerevi starred as Japan was dispatched 63-30 in Yokohama last weekend. Kerevi was retained at inside center, and Beale, who also starred in the position in the win over New Zealand on Oct. 21, was moved to the back. Hunt was in the reserves.
Coach Michael Cheika said Beale will still be a second playmaker in attack, no matter the number on his back.
“He’s a very, very good player Samu,” Cheika said on Thursday. “He hasn’t had it all his way this year, so I’m eager to see him fight back and try and get a spot in the team.
“We’ve got good options, that’s one really good thing for us around how we can set up, because Karmichael can set up at fullback, can set up in the center, Samu can go 12, 13, (left wing Reece) Hodge can play pretty much anywhere now, Beale’s got 12, 15, 10 if we need him.”
The only other change from the starting side which beat the All Blacks was Ned Hanigan at blindside flank for his 11th cap. Also, Matt Philip and Ben McCalman were reserve forwards.
Wales earlier dropped the 96-cap inside back Jamie Roberts, the talisman of the Warrenball era, and underlined a more expansive style by pairing Biggar with Williams, the Gloucester back who scored two tries in his last test against Samoa.
Also playing their first tests at home will be left wing Steff Evans, and Josh Navidi, who starts at openside flank in the absence of the injured Sam Warburton and Justin Tipuric.
Navidi and Aaron Shingler, who featured in victories over Tonga and Samoa in June, are in the back row with No. 8 Taulupe Faletau.
Regular scrumhalf Rhys Webb is injured so Gareth Davies starts, and tighthead prop Samson Lee has missed out despite Rob Evans not having played since September because of a head knock.
Three uncapped players are in the reserves: Prop Leon Brown, flanker Sam Cross, and Wales Under-20 center Owen Watkin.
Captain Alun Wyn Jones is one of seven Lions in the side.
“It’s going to be a tough first-up game, and we need to be up and running,” coach Warren Gatland said. “We have a squad that’s on form and we are excited to see what they can do.”
Wales: Leigh Halfpenny, Liam Williams, Jonathan Davies, Owen Williams, Steff Evans, Dan Biggar, Gareth Davies; Taulupe Faletau, Josh Navidi, Aaron Shingler, Alun Wyn Jones (captain), Jake Ball, Tomas Francis, Ken Owens, Rob Evans. Reserves: Kristian Dacey, Nicky Smith, Leon Brown, Cory Hill, Sam Cross, Aled Davies, Owen Watkin, Hallam Amos.
Australia: Kurtley Beale, Marika Koroibete, Tevita Kuridrani, Samu Kerevi, Reece Hodge, Bernard Foley, Will Genia; Sean McMahon, Michael Hooper (captain), Ned Hanigan, Adam Coleman, Rob Simmons, Sekope Kepu, Tatafu Polota-Nau, Scott Sio. Reserves: Stephen Moore, Tom Robertson, Allan Alaalatoa, Matt Philip, Ben McCalman, Nick Phipps, Karmichael Hunt, Henry Speight.