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Gatland calls for Wales players to seize opportunity against All Blacks

Gatland calls for Wales players to seize opportunity against All Blacks

Warren Gatland will take charge of Wales for the final time on Friday. ©INPHO/James Crombie

  • Wales change nine players for third-place play-off
  • New half-back pairing as Tomos Williams and Rhys Patchell start
  • Owen Lane gets his chance on the wing

Warren Gatland has urged his players to go out and prove a point after making nine changes to the Wales team ahead of the third-place play-off against New Zealand.

Friday’s match in Tokyo will be Gatland’s final Test in charge after 12 years at the helm, and his hand has been forced somewhat with a number of players unavailable.

As a result, he has made nine changes in total, including five in the backs where only Josh Adams and Jonathan Davies remain from the starters who lost to South Africa 19-16 in the semi-final.

And Gatland is optimistic that those players who come in will make a big impact.

He said: “There are a few guys who hopefully want to go out and prove a point that perhaps they should have had more rugby in this tournament.

“It’s a good position for them to be in. It’s a position for us to hopefully be positive about the changes in giving players an opportunity.”

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There is a new half-back pairing as Tomos Williams and Rhys Patchell are given their opportunity, while Owen Watkin slots into the centres.

Owen Lane, who was called up in place of the injured Josh Navidi, starts on the wing, while Hallam Amos gets the nod at full-back, with both George North and Leigh Halfpenny unavailable.

In the pack there are two changes to the props with Nicky Smith and Dillon Lewis coming in, while Adam Beard starts in the second row.

The final change sees James Davies replace the injured Aaron Wainwright in the back row, with Justin Tipuric switching to blindside flanker.

And as he prepares to embark on his final game in charge, Gatland is desperate to see his team pull off something special and record a first win over the All Blacks in 66 years.

He added: “The big challenge for us as a group, I’ve been so proud of this group – even after the disappointment of Sunday, I was still proud of the effort. We didn’t give up and at 16-16 we had the chance to potentially win that game but it wasn’t to be.

“But one of the things about this group of players is how much pride they’ve shown in wearing that Welsh jersey. I think it would be easy for us to be down on ourselves and throw in the towel but I expect these players, over the next 48 hours, to lift themselves and go out there and realise there’s an opportunity for that group to potentially do something special.”

Wales team to face New Zealand:

15. Hallam Amos (Cardiff Blues)
14. Owen Lane (Cardiff Blues)
13. Jonathan Davies (Scarlets)
12. Owen Watkin (Ospreys)
11. Josh Adams (Cardiff Blues)
10. Rhys Patchell (Scarlets)
9. Tomos Williams (Cardiff Blues)

1. Nicky Smith (Ospreys)
2. Ken Owens (Scarlets)
3. Dillon Lewis (Cardiff Blues)
4. Adam Beard (Ospreys)
5. Alun Wyn Jones (Ospreys) (c)
6. Justin Tipuric (Ospreys)
7. James Davies (Scarlets)
8. Ross Moriarty (Dragons)

Replacements:

16. Elliot Dee (Dragons)
17. Rhys Carre (Saracens)
18. Wyn Jones (Scarlets)
19. Jake Ball (Scarlets)
20. Aaron Shingler (Scarlets)
21. Gareth Davies (Scarlets)
22. Dan Biggar (Northampton Saints)
23. Hadleigh Parkes (Scarlets)