By Paul Jones
Botham – grandson of England cricket great Sir Ian Botham – will makes his Wales bow in the Autumn Nations Cup clash against Georgia, with England the opposition to follow next weekend.
The 22-year-old Cardiff Blues flanker was called up to Wales’ Nations Cup squad on Monday and he has played just 13 professional games.
But Cardiff-born Botham, whose father Liam played rugby union and rugby league for a number of clubs, is among three newcomers selected to face Georgia alongside Scarlets backs Johnny Williams and Kieran Hardy.
Wales coach Wayne Pivac said: “It’s a great honour for the new caps and the players making their first starts. They have trained well and deserve this opportunity to represent their country.”
“Saturday is a huge opportunity for the players and for us as a squad looking ahead to the future and to RWC 2023.
After getting called into the Wales squad on Monday James Botham looks set to be thrown straight into the fray against Georgiahttps://t.co/3Jh0PGs7Ld
— Steffan Thomas (@Steffan_Thomas1) November 18, 2020
“As we have said all along, the Autumn Nations Cup is a great platform for us to give opportunities to players, to build depth and experience.”
Wales coaching staff had already identified Botham as a player of possible 2023 World Cup potential, but his chance has come far sooner than expected.
And he is the latest international rugby player off the production line at Sedbergh School in Cumbria, with Botham’s fellow former pupils including ex-England captain Will Carling, World Cup-winning England centre Will Greenwood and current Wales prop Tomas Francis.
Former London Irish and Newcastle centre Williams, meanwhile, was diagnosed with testicular cancer last year and underwent chemotherapy before returning to professional rugby 10 months ago.
He represented England and scored a try in a non-cap game against the Barbarians in 2019, but qualifies for Wales through his father, who hails from Rhyl.
— Welsh Rugby Union 🏉 (@WelshRugbyUnion) November 19, 2020
Elsewhere, Bristol fly-half Callum Sheedy and 19-year-old Gloucester wing Louis Rees-Zammit will make their first Test starts after debuts as substitutes in recent games against Ireland and France, respectively.
Pivac has stuck with a pre-planned selection approach to the Georgia fixture, despite a run of six-successive defeats.
He has made 13 changes from the side beaten 32-9 by Ireland in last week’s Nations Cup opener, with only full-back Liam Williams and flanker Justin Tipuric, who captains the team, remaining.
Pivac has overseen just two wins from eight games since succeeding Warren Gatland as Wales boss a year ago.
WALES TEAM TO PLAY GEORGIA (Saturday November 21 KO17.15):
- Wyn Jones (Scarlets) (27 Caps)
- Elliot Dee (Dragons) (30 Caps)
- Samson Lee (Scarlets) (43 Caps)
- Jake Ball (Scarlets) (47 Caps)
- Seb Davies (Cardiff Blues) (8 Caps)
- James Botham (Cardiff Blues) (*Uncapped)
- Justin Tipuric (Ospreys) (78 Caps) (CAPT)
- Aaron Wainwright (Dragons) (24 Caps)
- Kieran Hardy (Scarlets) (*Uncapped)
- Callum Sheedy (Bristol Bears) (1 Cap)
- Louis Rees-Zammit (Gloucester) (1 Cap)
- Johnny Williams (Scarlets) (*Uncapped)
- Nick Tompkins (Dragons) (6 Caps)
- Johnny McNicholl (Scarlets) (4 Caps)
- Liam Williams (Scarlets) (65 Caps)
- Sam Parry (Ospreys) (2 Caps)
- Nicky Smith (Ospreys) (36 Caps)
- Leon Brown (Dragons) (10 Caps)
- Cory Hill (Cardiff Blues) (27 Caps)
- James Davies (Scarlets) (9 Caps)
- Rhys Webb (Ospreys) (34 Caps)
- Ioan Lloyd (Bristol Bears) (*Uncapped)
- Jonah Holmes (Dragons) (3 Caps)