Gethin Jenkins will captain Wales against Australia in Friday’s World Cup third-place playoff match at Eden Park.
The front row forward gets the honour after Wales coach Warren Gatland was forced into a change of captain after Sam Warburton was suspended for three weeks after he was sent off in Saturday’s 9-8 semi-final loss to France at Eden Park for a dangerous ‘tip tackle’ on Vincent Clerc that ended with the French wing landing on his head.
Kiwi coach Gatland made just three changes in all to the starting side he unveiled Tuesday in a sign that Wales, whose best World Cup finish was the third place they achieved after beating Australia 22-21 in Rotorua at the inaugural 1987 tournament co-hosted by New Zealand, intend to take Friday’s match seriously.
Ryan Jones comes into a reshuffled back-row at No 8 with Toby Faletau moving across to take Warburton’s place as openside flanker.
Bradley Davies, who replaced Alun Wyn Jones in the 61st minute of Sunday’s match, starts at lock while Paul James, on early against France following an injury to veteran prop Adam Jones, is in the front-row.
“We are sticking with the majority of the side which has put together a string of performances for us so far in this tournament,” Gatland said Tuesday.
“The one change which wasn’t forced, in the second row, is based on the fact that Alun Wyn Jones ran himself into the ground when we had 14 men against France.
“We face Australia back home at the Millennium Stadium in just over a month’s time, and we are single-minded in our assertion that we want that homecoming to be a celebration of us achieving the status of one of the top three teams in the world,” Gatland added.
“We have come a long way and put together a string of performances that the nation can be proud of so far in New Zealand.
“And we need to ensure that the history books reflect what we know we are capable of. And it is only by beating the Wallabies on Friday that we feel this will be achieved.”
Australia, defeated 20-6 by hosts New Zealand in the other semi-final, are due to name their side on Wednesday.
Wales Matchday Squad
Leigh Halfpenny; George North, Jonathan Davies, Jamie Roberts, Shane Williams; James Hook, Mike Phillips; Ryan Jones, Toby Faletau, Dan Lydiate; Luke Charteris, Bradley Davies; Paul James, Huw Bennett, Gethin Jenkins (capt)
Replacements: Lloyd Burns, Ryan Bevington, Alun Wyn Jones, Andy Powell, Lloyd Williams, Stephen Jones, Scott Williams