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Sam Warburton returns to lead Wales against Australia in Brisbane

7th June 2012

• Warburton has been out of action for 11 weeks
• Wallabies make nine changes to starting line-up

Sam Warburton will return to lead Wales in the first of their three Tests against Australia in Brisbane after an 11-week break since leaving the field at half-time in the 16-9 win over the French.

Despite seeing a fringe side beat the Barbarians 30-21 last week, the caretaker coach Rob Howley has picked a completely different team to that which played at the Millennium Stadium.

A total of 16 players were sent to Australia early for acclimatisation purposes, with all but Ashley Beck named to start the series opener. Only six of the players who figured in the Baa-Baas win are asked to act as replacements, with Matthew Rees, Paul James, Alun Wyn Jones, Ryan Jones, Lloyd Williams and James Hook all joining Beck on the bench.

The only other changes from the Grand Slam winning team see the Scarlets centre Scott Williams, who scored the crucial try in the Triple Crown triumph over England at Twickenham, taking over from the injured Jamie Roberts at centre, the hooker Ken Owens replacing his Scarlets team-mate Matthew Rees and Blues lock Bradley Davies packing down with the ex-Dragons captain Luke Charteris in the second row.

Davies has not played for Wales since picking up a six-week ban for a dangerous tackle in the opening victory over Ireland in February. He replaces Wyn Jones, while Charteris moves up off the bench to take over from Ian Evans, who is getting married.

“We are well prepared and looking forward to the challenge this weekend,” said Howley. “We have created some winning momentum, we have a recent home win against the Barbarians to take into this game and have built a certain amount of confidence within the squad.”

Meanwhile, the Wallabies coach Robbie Deans has made nine changes after his side lost 9-6 to Scotland on Monday. There are five newcomers in the pack, including an all-new Waratahs front row, and three more behind the scrum.

The loosehead prop Benn Robinson makes a welcome return to the Test arena after an 18-month absence and fit-again Wycliff Palu gets the nod at number eight.

Australia v Wales, Saturday 9 June

Wales L Halfpenny; A Cuthbert, J Davies, S Williams, G North; R Priestland, M Phillips; G Jenkins, K Owens, A Jones, B Davies, L Charteris, D Lydiate, S Warburton (Captain), T Faletau. Replacements: M Rees, P James, AW Jones, R Jones, L Williams, J Hook, A Beck.

Australia A Ashley-Cooper; J Tomane, R Horne, P McCabe, D Ioane; B Barnes, W Genia; B Robinson, T Polota Nau, S Kepu, R Simmons, N Sharpe, S Higginbotham, D Pocock, W Palu. Replacements: S Moore, B Alexander, D Dennis, M Hooper, N White, A Fainga’a, M Harris.


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