Wales name three debutants in XV for Tonga Test on Friday
By Joe Shread
Last Updated: 14/06/17 1:09pm
Wales have selected three debutants in their starting XV for Friday's Test against Tonga in Auckland.
Steffan Evans, Thomas Young and Seb Davies will earn their first international caps against the Pacific Islanders, with six more uncapped players among the replacements.
The Test will take place at New Zealand's Eden Park, live on Sky Sports 1 from 6:20am.
Wales have been forced to name an inexperienced squad due to 12 of their players touring New Zealand with the British and Irish Lions.
Lions head coach Warren Gatland - as well as his usual stand-in Rob Howley - are also touring New Zealand, leaving Robin McBryde to coach Wales against Tonga.
Despite the absentees, McBryde is bullish about Wales' chances: "We have come here to get two wins from two games. This is not a development tour and we have selected a strong team."
Of the debutants, Davies is perhaps the most surprising, as the 20-year-old lock has only made a handful of appearances for the Cardiff Blues.
Winger Evans helped the Scarlets to the Guinness PRO12 title, while Young was part of the Wasps squad to reach the Aviva Premiership final, where they were beaten by Exeter Chiefs.
"It's the next step for someone like Steffan Evans," McBryde said. "The regional coaches just see him getting better and better.
"Thomas Young has had numerous man-of-the-match awards in the Aviva Premiership, and it is a chance for him to try and repeat that on the international stage.
"Seb Davies has responded really well in training. There is a void to be filled because of players with the Lions being unavailable, and the enthusiasm the youngsters have bought into training has been outstanding. We are really looking forward to the game."
Jamie Roberts captains the side, and joins Scott Williams to form an experienced midfield partnership. Elsewhere, there are new combinations for Wales to bed in.
Cardiff Blues' Gareth Anscombe starts at full-back, with club-mate Alex Cuthbert joining Evans on the wing. Scarlets' Gareth Davies and Ospreys' Davies are the half-back combination.
Ospreys' Nicky Smith, Cardiff Blues' Kristian Dacey and Exeter's Tomas Francis make up the front-row, while Newport Gwent Dragons' Cory Hill joins Davies at lock.
Scarlets' Aaron Shingler and Cardiff Blues' Josh Navidi join Young to complete the back-row.
Among the replacements, only Cory Allen and Ellis Jenkins have experience of international rugby. Ryan Elias, Dillon Lewis, Ollie Griffiths, Aled Davies and Owen Williams should all win their first caps from the bench.
Captain Jamie Roberts said: "This is such an exciting time in the careers of these young players. I am impressed by their enthusiasm and willingness to learn.
"Eden Park is one of the best venues in world rugby. It is up to the lads to take the atmosphere in. The stage is set for themselves."