Wales head coach Wayne Pivac sprang a surprise by revealing his side to face Fiji two days ahead of schedule on Wednesday.

And there were also a handful of talking points in the starting XV. None more so than the decision to start Josh Adams at outside centre.

There is also a recall for Alex Cuthbert, who will play for Wales for the first time since 2017, while Ellis Jenkins captains the side from blindside flanker and Taine Basham is at No.8.

READ MORE: For all the latest rugby news, views and analysis head to our rugby section

Question: Can you just explain why you named the team two days early and are there any injuries?

Wayne Pivac: With a few changes, and a debutant coming in, what we wanted to do was name the team as early as possible in camp and once we do that it tends to get out anyway so we’re just going with it today, a couple of days earlier.

Injury-wise, Aaron [Wainwright] unfortunately took a bump in the game last week against South Africa but he’s on track to be good to go against Australia.

Q: There are talking points all across the back row…

WP: It’s not the biggest back row in the world but they’re all good over the ball. So it’ll give us something different.

The way Fiji play, hopefully there will be some opportunities at the breakdown, so we’ll be stronger than we have been in that area.

We’ve got a bit of work to do on our lineout with those changes there but Ellis is the captain, he’s a natural leader and he’s captained in the past.

When you look at the changes we’ve made, the seniority Jonathan Davies brings is missing, so Ellis was a natural go-to.

Dan Biggar is running our game from 10 and Adam Beard is calling the lineout.

They are probably the other two senior players that will have a lot of influence on the game.

Q: Taine Basham goes to No.8. You’re asking a lot of him in this autumn series aren’t you?

WP: Yeah we are, but he’s working hard at his game, he’s learning all the time.

He took a lot out of last weekend in terms of learnings and decision-making at breakdowns. He’ll be much better for this series going forward, having just turned 22 years of age.

He played a lot of his younger rugby at No.8 prior to being converted to a seven. He’s looking forward to the No.8 role.

Q: You asked for special dispensation to pick Thomas Young and now he’s starting…

WP: You know with the opposition that we’ve got that you’re going to take bumps along the way and with the injuries that we’ve had to the loose forwards, Thomas was always going to be involved.

He’s really relishing getting a start.

Q: You had a look at Josh Adams at outside centre briefly last week and must have liked what you saw?

WP: We had a look right back in the Barbarians game, to be honest. It’s always been in the back of our minds, that he has the ability and the skill set to play in more than one position.

He obviously played well at full-back on the Lions tour and has played there at club level.

We want to see if he can do it at this level.

There’s a World Cup coming up and you want to build depth in all positions.

When you can only take 33 to a World Cup, having guys who can play in multiple positions is important.

Q: Willis Halaholo is not involved this week. Is that a legacy of his illness and a lack of training time?

WP: Definitely. Willis had a run this morning and he’ll have another one this afternoon, so he’s now back in full training.

But when you’re stuck inside for 10 days and with the illness as well, it takes a few days to recover from a medical point of view and then you have to get the volume back into his body.

These guys are finely tuned. We don’t want to risk him this weekend but he’ll certainly be available for next weekend.

Q: What do you see in Christ Tshiunza?

WP: At 19, he’s an athlete. If you saw him up close, he’ll be one to watch in the future, there’s no doubt about it, and we wanted to get him into the fold nice and early.

It’ll be a great learning experience for him. He’s trained well and he’s very enthusiastic.

He got 60 minutes for Exeter on the weekend which has been beneficial for his lungs.

He’ll just enjoy the whole week and the experience of playing in front of a big crowd.

He’ll get some game time and that’s certainly what we’re looking to do with him.

Christ Tshiunza during training with Wales

Q: There are five changes in the backs, what impact is that going to have on the game plan?

WP: Some are forced. We’ve got about 17 players unavailable at the moment.

But it’s also a great experience for players coming in and getting games against southern hemisphere nations, which have been few and far between in the last couple of years. It’s valuable experience.

We’re building depth and that’s going to bode well for the future.

Q: Talk to us about the selection of Alex Cuthbert…

WP: Alex has gone well in the Premiership. He forced his way into a very strong side and played well at the back end of last season.

He’s come in, he’s big and quick and he’s got a lot of repeatability in him. He’s very fit and he’s been enjoying coming into camp, working hard and getting his volume up in training.

We think he’s good to go and we’re looking at depth. We want competition for positions. We think that Alex can add to the depth that we’re building.

Q: He had a lot of abuse around the time of his last international. Do you sense he’s hungry to be back and in a good frame of mind after being away?

WP: I think a lot of players that go away come back different people

Rhys Priestland was in a similar boat and Dan Biggar is enjoying playing in England.

It’s not necessarily a bad thing but we just don’t need too many of them out there.

Having that experience of coming back a better person and a better rugby player, with more experience, is not necessarily a bad thing.

Alex has trained very well and is very much looking forward to the weekend.

Q: What do you make of the challenge Fiji face with no southern hemisphere players and a temporary coaching staff?

WP: In a way, my experience is that the best players are in the northern hemisphere, up here earning big money. So they’ll have a strong side, there is no doubt about that.

Obviously, it’s unfortunate that Vern can’t come and one or two of the management staff but since my time there Fiji has come a long way.

They’re a side that you can’t rest against. The offloading game is second to none. The Fijians love ball-in-hand and they’re very skillful.

We saw them against the All Blacks with a solid scrum for the majority of the game and they scored a driving lineout try, so they’ve come a long way in the set piece.

A lot of their players are familiar to us in the northern hemisphere. We’re expecting a big, physical match.

I know from my time coming here in 2005, I think we were beaten by a drop goal in the last minute.

Fiji will come knowing that they usually have close games with Wales.

Q: Ken Owens has been released. What’s the long term prognosis with him?

WP: He’ll definitely be back before the end of the year.

I’d like to think he’ll get a number of club games in before the Six Nations.

It’s just one of those where backs can be slow. If we pushed it, what would we get out of it?

It’s one game whereas it’s a long season and we’re not too far off a Rugby World Cup.

Player wellbeing is at the forefront of that decision.

Q: Did you discuss going for a bigger option in your back row rather than three opensides?

WP: Yeah we discussed those options. Seb Davies is involved.

We think he’s improved over the two games so we’re going to give him the same opportunity. He’ll be covering the loose forwards.

Christ [Tshiunza] can also cover the loose forwards.Then we’ve got the three guys out there. If something happens to a seven, we’ve already got that cover on the field.

The big men are ready to come on if needs be.

Wales endured a tough evening against South Africa at scrum time

Q: Have you gotten to the bottom of your scrummaging issues?

WP: South Africa are an exceptional scrummaging team and they’ve had success against top nations in the Rugby Championship.

But there is also work to be done on our side. We’ve come in undercooked. Wyn Jones, coming back from the Lions, knows he has some work to do to get to full fitness levels required to play at Test level.

You could argue that Tomas Francis has some work to do by his own admission.

Then losing Ken Owens in the middle of that, the scrum has been weakened.

But it’s certainly something that the boys worked hard on this morning and they’ll be working hard on it for the rest of the week.

Q: How have you found the competition at scrum-half?

WP: There is good competition in the nines. By nature, there is a lot of competition there.

Gareth is disappointed that he’s not having a run this week, I had a good chat with Gareth.

But it was an opportunity for us to have a look at Kieran. He played very well against England in the Six Nations and we need to see him repeat that performance and you can only do that by being put out there.

Gareth has 60-odd Tests now and we pretty much know what he can and can’t do. We wanted Tomos to have a run of games because he’s playing well and Kieran needs an opportunity to get back out there.

We decided that this is the game to do that.

Source link