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Davies back in Wales centers for NZ test

November 18, 2014

CARDIFF, Wales (AP) — Wales will send out center Jonathan Davies against New Zealand in their rugby test this weekend, believing his class will make up for his lack of recent matchplay.

Davies, the British Lions midfielder who has 41 Welsh caps, was the only change on Tuesday to the XV which lost to Australia 33-28 on Nov. 8.

George North has made way for Davies and returned to his usual left wing, and Liam Williams, who was on the wing against Australia then was man-of-the-match from fullback in the messy 17-13 win over Fiji last Saturday, was in the reserves.

Davies hasn’t played since damaging a shoulder muscle with Clermont Auvergne a month ago. The Wales coaches doubted last week whether he would be fit enough to face the All Blacks this Saturday, but he passed fitness tests on Monday, along with scrumhalf Rhys Webb (neck), flyhalf Dan Biggar (groin), and fullback Leigh Halfpenny (head knock).

“There’s always that worry and risk when players think they might be underdone,” Gatland said of Davies. “But with quality players and experienced players, hopefully that’s as seamless as possible. Hopefully, he’ll be able to rekindle that (midfield) relationship with Jamie (Roberts) and it will work for us.”

Halfpenny’s experience and goalkicking gave him the nod ahead of the in-form Liam Williams.

“It was a big call on him,” coach Warren Gatland said.

The pack was unchanged, with hooker Richard Hibbard forgiven for appearing as a late replacement for his Gloucester club on Friday, when Wales didn’t consider him fit enough with a sore foot to be considered for the Fiji match.

Gethin Jenkins, the British Lions loosehead and captain against Fiji, was not considered because of a hamstring strain.

Also into the reserves came Nicky Smith, the Ospreys prop who made his debut off the bench against Fiji, Racing Metro lock Luke Charteris, and Gloucester playmaker James Hook for Rhys Priestland.

“It’s one of the most experienced teams we have put out,” Gatland said.

Wales has not beaten the All Blacks since 1953.

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Wales: Leigh Halfpenny, Alex Cuthbert, Jonathan Davies, Jamie Roberts, George North, Dan Biggar, Rhys Webb; Taulupe Faletau, Sam Warburton (captain), Dan Lydiate, Alun Wyn Jones, Jake Ball, Samson Lee, Richard Hibbard, Paul James. Scott Baldwin, Nicky Smith, Rhodri Jones, Luke Charteris, Justin Tipuric, Mike Phillips, James Hook, Liam Williams.

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