Our Wales team for the Autumn Internationals

Wales coach Waren Gatland has recently spoken of having twelve key players he plans to focus on ahead of the World Cup next year. As unfortunate as it is predictable, he will have to adapt his plans for the autumn internationals to cater for the absence of five of those key individuals.

Back Three

The scarcity of options available to the Welsh management at full back have once more been highlighted by Lee Byrne’s injury leaving the squad lacking in a recognized full back. Essentially James Hook takes the role virtually by default. Harries and Czekaj have some experience at regional level of being makeshift number fifteens but neither possesses the experience or poise that Hook has, in order to make the switch at test level.

Out wide Shane Williams, even in the twilight of his career, has been in irresistible form of late, whilst Leigh Halfpenny’s withdrawal due to injury throws the right wing berth wide open. The question is whether Gatland will opt to continue Thomas Prydie’s rapid elevation to Welsh colours or look to a player with more experience of domestic rugby. Will Harries‘ early season form, in spite of being played out of position in a poorly performing side, may see him preferred to Prydie, as Wales look to offset the lack of back-three experience caused by Byrne’s absence.


Jamie Roberts absence leaves a massive void to be filled in midfield. With Hook’s likely positional switch, a new centre partnership is the only probable outcome and Tom Shanklin’s experience and regional form should see him recalled to a starting place. Unfortunately the 30-year-old is lacking a yard or two of pace, compared to the player he was prior to his sidelining through injury, so a switch to inside-centre is likely.

The other centre berth is more contentious. Andrew Bishop, a fringe player over the last few seasons, has been Mr. Dependable when called upon, and deserves a chance to establish himself. Jonathan Davies’ recent lack of action probably ends his chances of jumping up the pecking order, but his ability at the gain-line makes him an attractive option for bench duty at least.


It would be a bold move for Dan Biggar to be promoted to outside-half: the Ospreys prospect has blown hot and cold so far this season. Stephen Jones however remains a figure of consistency and offers the stability needed in a much changed three-quarter line. Mike Phillips is some way ahead of his nearest rivals for the number nine shirt, with either Richie Rees or Tavis Knoyle acting as bench cover until Dwayne Peel returns upon the international window opening fully for England-based players.

Back row

Injuries to both Ryan Jones and Rob McCusker have left Wales with few options, although Jonathan Thomas’ regional move to Number Eight will soften the blow somewhat. Having had a fairly anonymous start to his test career, I’d like to see Dan Lydiate will be given a chance to establish himself at blindside. Lydiate’s lack of experience is likely to re-open the door for Martyn Williams, at least in the opening test, as Gatland tries to strike a balance between youth and experience in the back row. Williams’s advancing years mean a rotation with Sam Warbuton throughout the month is highly likely.

Second Row

The partnership between Bradley Davies and Alun Wyn-Jones will have another chance to develop. The other locking contenders perhaps offer some additional grunt up-front, but do not offer the dynamism of the current incumbents.

Front Row

The one settled area for Wales. Provided they can keep fit Gethin Jenkins, Mattew Rees and Adam Jones are inked in as certain starters.

My Wales Starting XV

15. James Hook
14. Will Harries
13. Andrew Bishop
12. Tom Shanklin
11. Shane Williams
10. Stephen Jones
9. Mike Phillips

1. Gethin Jenkins
2. Matthew Rees
3. Adam Jones
4. Bradley Davies
5. Alun Wyn-Jones
6. Dan Lydiate
7. Martyn Williams
8. Jonathan Thomas

By Paul French (@paulfrugby)

5 thoughts on “Our Wales team for the Autumn Internationals

  1. Sorry, but Wales need Hook to be in the thick of things and to have his hands on the ball as much as possible if they’re going to open up defences. Hook is an absolute magician (wish he was English…), and if Wales aren’t going to pick him at 10 (and I fully support the case for Stephen Jones remaining there), Hook has to play at 12 or 13

  2. Who would you pick at full-back Rory? I agree that Hook is better off in midfield, but options look limited at the back, whereas there are more options at centre.

  3. Reckon I’d go for Czekaj – a bit raw and overly keen to impress, but he’s got something about him. Happy to acknowledge that Hook is the safer option for full-back, but Wales need him to be involved in as much of their attacking play as humanly possible, and I just don’t see that happening from full-back

  4. Would you not want to put Sam Warburton and Martyn Williams paired as Flankers? It’s a combination I have been chomping at the bit to see. They may both be open sides but their styles of play could very easily work together and the more intelligent and the more physical Wales’ back row the better.

    And now with Dan Lydiate a doubt ( http://www.campaignseries.co.uk/sport/latest/8479183.Wales_injury_woes_continue/) surely Andy Powell has the number 8 shirt? He may not be all there upstairs but when picked up and pointed in the right direction he’s the best battering Ram in Britain.

    Also Will Harries was a revelation against the All blacks and has been very good this season but it has to be Prydie vs James o’connor all the way.

  5. Rory, Czekaj at full back is a possibility, if he can get his confidence back that is. We may see him at full back for the Fiji game. On form this season I think he would be too much of a risk to be playing outside of his comfort zone.

    Sam, I think the physicality of our back row is something that was exposed massively last season, I think playing Warbuton on the blindside would leave us with a very light weight back-row, especially with Ryan Jones out. We may even see Alun Wyn-Jones moved back to six if Lydiate is out.

    I’m looking forward to seeing Harries given a chance as well, he seems to have a really x-factor about him, in the same way Shane does.

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