Ben Thomas And Josh Hathaway Freshen Up Wales For Australia Test

Ben Thomas Cardiff. (Photo by Ryan Hiscott/Getty Images)

Ben Thomas And Josh Hathaway Freshen Up Wales For Australia Test

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By Paul Jones

Gloucester back Josh Hathaway will make his Test debut and Cardiff’s Ben Thomas has been handed the fly-half role when Wales face Australia in Sydney on Saturday.

Aberystwyth-born Hathaway, who has represented Wales and England at under-20 level, starts on the wing.

Wales head coach Warren Gatland moved quickly to secure the 20-year-old’s services, which was brought into sharp focus after Exeter wing Immanuel Feyi-Waboso was in a similar position last season and chose England.

Thomas, 25, replaces Sam Costelow, marking his first international start in his third Test appearance after two substitute roles in 2021.

He will partner with Cardiff teammate Ellis Bevan, who made his debut in the 41-13 defeat to South Africa at Twickenham last month.

Bath tight-head prop Archie Griffin will start his first Test in his second international appearance. Christ Tshiunza is named at lock alongside Exeter teammate Dafydd Jenkins, with the recalled Cory Hill on the bench.

Number eight Aaron Wainwright will earn his 50th cap, having debuted as a replacement in the 23-10 win over Argentina in 2018.

Wainwright is one of only three starting players, along with Williams and prop Gareth Thomas, who survived from the team that beat Australia 40-6 in the World Cup in Lyon last September.

Wales head coach Warren Gatland included only one specialist fly-half, Costelow, in the summer squad, with Thomas and fellow Cardiff player Jacob Beetham as backups.

Wales are seeking a successor to the retired Dan Biggar and unavailable Gareth Anscombe. Costelow started four games in the Six Nations and the defeat against the Springboks.

Thomas has only started once at 10 for Cardiff this season, with 16 appearances at his more natural inside-centre position. South African fly-half Tinus de Beer was the primary starter for the Arms Park side, while Callum Sheedy will join Cardiff from Bristol next season.

Costelow is named as a replacement this weekend.

Hathaway was included in Wales’ training squad for the summer Tests but missed the South Africa match as it fell outside World Rugby’s international window, excluding English-based players.

Aberystwyth-born Hathaway, who has played for Wales and England at under-20 level, provides options at full-back and wing.

Wales moved to secure Hathaway’s services after Exeter wing Immanuel Feyi-Waboso opted to play for England earlier this season.

After missing the Six Nations due to club commitments in Japan, Williams returns to accustomed full-back position, with Cameron Winnett dropping out after starting the last six internationals.

Williams, 33, is the team’s most experienced player, set to win his 91st cap for Wales, in addition to five Tests for the British and Irish Lions.

Mason Grady, who primarily played wing for Cardiff last season, continues out of position at inside-centre, having worn the number 12 jersey against South Africa. He will again partner Owen Watkin, with Nick Tompkins on the bench.

Griffin, 22, will make his first international start in Sydney, where he was born. He is Welsh-qualified through his parents and previously made a brief replacement appearance against England at Twickenham in February.

Tomas Francis has been Wales’ long-time first-choice tight-head but has not played since the World Cup and his move to French side Provence. Leon Brown, Keiron Assiratti, and Henry Thomas are unavailable due to injury.

Scarlets prop Harri O’Connor is on the bench, with Dillon Lewis not involved.

Tshiunza will play his first game for Wales since the World Cup, while Hill returns to the international stage for the first time since the 2021 Six Nations defeat to France in Paris. Hill has been playing fourth division rugby in Japan before his recall.

Wales face second-row issues with Adam Beard and Teddy Williams injured and Will Rowlands rested for the summer series. Dragons duo Ben Carter and Matthew Screech played against South Africa but are not involved against the Wallabies this weekend.

Wales have lost their last seven internationals since defeating Georgia in the World Cup and have not beaten the Wallabies in Australia since 1969.
Australia’s new head coach Joe Schmidt has replaced Eddie Jones.

“We’ve had a good week of preparations here in Sydney and are excited to get out on the field on Saturday,” said Gatland.

“This first Test is going to be a great challenge for us. Test matches are all about fine margins and we know we need to be accurate, keep our discipline, and stay in the fight for the full 80 minutes.

“There’s a lot of talent within the Australia squad, and we know they will want to come out firing and put in a performance against us this weekend.”

Wales v Australia: Liam Williams; Josh Hathaway, Owen Watkin, Mason Grady, Rio Dyer; Ben Thomas, Ellis Bevan; Gareth Thomas, Dewi Lake (capt), Archie Griffin, Christ Tshiunza, Dafydd Jenkins, Taine Plumtree, Tommy Reffell, Aaron Wainwright.

Replacements: Evan Lloyd, Kemsley Mathias, Harri O’Connor, Cory Hill, James Botham, Kieran Hardy, Sam Costelow, Nick Tompkins.

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