Cuthbert returns for finale

2013-11-26 17:00
Alex Cuthbert (AFP)

Cardiff - British and Irish Lions wing Alex Cuthbert was back in the Wales team to play Australia at Cardiff's Millennium Stadium on Saturday, just over a month after injury put him on the sidelines.

Cuthbert suffered an ankle injury during Cardiff Blues' 19-15 European Cup win at home to holders Toulon on October 19 and missed Wales' opening three November internationals against South Africa, Argentina and Tonga.

But a record of 10 tries -- including one in his lone Test for the Lions against Australia in June -- in 19 internationals, saw the 23-year-old recalled on Tuesday for the final match of the November Test campaign.

Wales will be looking to claim a first win over a major southern hemisphere nation since defeating the Wallabies five years ago and, as expected, there were several changes to the team that beat Tonga 17-7 in lacklustre fashion last Friday.

Regular captain Sam Warburton returns to the starting side with fellow flanker Justin Tipuric now on the bench, while Dan Biggar was chosen at fly-half by coach Warren Gatland instead of Rhys Priestland, who is among the replacements.

James Hook, who started at fly-half against Tonga, is unavailable because the match against Australia falls outside the International Rugby Board's 'window' for end-of-year Tests and Perpignan, his French club, have chosen not to release the talented playmaker.

But there will be plenty of attacking threat from a Lions back three of goalkicking full-back Leigh Halfpenny, man of the series in the combined side's 2-1 series win over Australia, George North -- who has got clearance from English Premiership side Northampton for this match -- and Cuthbert.

Meanwhile Scott Williams has recovered from a toe injury and will line-up in the centres alongside Cardiff Blues' Owen Williams, who scored a try on debut against Tonga.

In the front row Gethin Jekins, who brought up his 100 caps against Argentina a fortnight ago, returns alongside hooker Richard Hibbard, while Lions locks Ian Evans and Alun Wyn Jones, who started all five of champions Wales' 2013 Six Nations matches, provide the second row pairing.

"It's great to have Alex and Scott available and they bring a lot of experience into the backline," said victorious Lions boss Gatland after announcing his latest Wales side.

"Alex and the medical teams have worked really hard to ensure he is ready for this weekend and it's great to be able to bring him back into the side.

"We thought Owen (Williams) performed well in the centre against Tonga and he gets another opportunity on Saturday.

"There is a lot of experience in the pack for what is going to be a very physical game," the New Zealander added.

Under Gatland, Wales have lost 21 out of 22 Tests against southern giants New Zealand, South Africa and Australia, the exception a 21-18 win over the Wallabies in 2008.

Indeed, Wales have lost their last eight Tests against Australia, albeit the three most recent reverses were by a combined margin of just five points.

"We are looking to finish the series off well," said Gatland.

"The last three games against Australia have gone right down to the wire and I don't expect anything different this weekend."

Wales will face a rejuvenated Australia who, in seeing off Italy, Ireland and Scotland in successive weeks are now on their best winning run of the year.

Australia coach Ewen McKenzie, who found himself under renewed pressure following a tour-opening 20-13 defeat by England earlier this month that ended hopes of equalling the Wallaby Grand Slam of 1984, is due to name his side on Thursday.



15 Leigh Halfpenny, 14 Alex Cuthbert, 13 Owen Williams, 12 Scott Williams, 11 George North, 10 Dan Biggar, 9 Mike Phillips, 8 Toby Faletau, 7 Sam Warburton (captain), 6 Dan Lydiate, 5 Ian Evans, 4 Alun Wyn Jones, 3 Rhodri Jones, 2 Richard Hibbard, 1  Gethin Jenkins

Substitutes: 16 Ken Owens, 17 Ryan Bevington, 18 Samson Lee, 19 Ryan Jones, 20 Justin Tipuric, 21 Rhodri Williams, 22 Rhys Priestland, 23 Liam Williams



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