Wales hand debut to centre Joe Hawkins for Australia clash

Joe Hawkins scores for Wales against Scotland during U20 Six Nations Joe Hawkins will make his senior team debut (Bradley Collyer/PA)

Ospreys centre Joe Hawkins will make his Wales debut and lock Alun Wyn Jones has been recalled to the starting line-up for Saturday’s Autumn Nations Series finale against Australia.

Hawkins, 20, steps in for Owen Watkin, who suffered a knee injury during last Saturday’s humiliating home defeat against Georgia.

World record cap holder and former Wales skipper Jones, meanwhile, replaces Ben Carter for a first international start since last season’s Six Nations Championship.

Elsewhere, full-back Leigh Halfpenny returns following a 16-month injury absence from the Wales team, and Gareth Anscombe features at fly-half.

Other changes see wing Rio Dyer back in action – Josh Adams drops to the replacements’ bench – and number eight Taulupe Faletau packing down for his 100th Wales and British and Irish Lions Test match appearance.

Wales are chasing a fourth successive victory over the Wallabies, but head coach Wayne Pivac has overseen just three wins from 11 starts this year.

Pivac goes into the Principality Stadium clash under huge pressure following Georgia’s 13-12 success, which was Wales’ 19th defeat in his 33 Tests at the helm.

And with Saturday’s game falling outside World Rugby’s autumn window, players like Gloucester back Louis Rees-Zammit, Saracens centre Nick Tompkins and Exeter forward Christ Tshiunza are unavailable because they have not been released by their clubs for those fixtures.

Whether Welsh Rugby Union chiefs decide on a change of head coach just 10 months out from the next World Cup remains to be seen, but there can be little doubt that Pivac’s job is now on the line.

“The whole squad is extremely disappointed with last week’s performance,” Pivac said.

“It is not the result that anybody wanted, it is not the result that anyone expected.

“We have gone through a review process. We know what went wrong and what is required to get the result this weekend.

“There has been an injury to Owen Watkin, which gives an opportunity to young Joe Hawkins. He has been in camp training for the last month and learning a lot, and he has looked good in training so he gets an opportunity.

“Certainly, it is a side we’ve selected to get a result, which we are desperately seeking.

“We are playing an Australian side that will have a lot of changes for probably similar reasons to ourselves over the last month or so with injuries, but what we do know about Australia is that they are a dangerous side whatever team they put out.”

Wales team to play Wallabies

Forwards: 1 Gareth Thomas (Ospreys), 2 Ken Owens (Scarlets), 3 Dillon Lewis (Cardiff Rugby), 4 Adam Beard (Ospreys), 5 Alun Wyn Jones (Ospreys), 6 Jac Morgan (Ospreys), 7 Justin Tipuric (CAPTAIN, Ospreys), 8 Taulupe Faletau (Cardiff Rugby)

Backs: 9 Tomos Williams (Cardiff Rugby), 10 Gareth Anscombe (Ospreys), 11 Rio Dyer (Dragons), 12 Joe Hawkins (Ospreys)*, 13 George North (Ospreys), 14 Alex Cuthbert (Ospreys), 15 Leigh Halfpenny (Scarlets)

Replacements: 16 Ryan Elias (Scarlets), 17 Rhodri Jones (Dragons), 18 Tomas Francis (Ospreys), 19 Ben Carter (Dragons), 20 Josh Macleod (Scarlets), 21 Kieran Hardy (Scarlets), 22 Rhys Priestland (Cardiff Rugby), 23 Josh Adams (Cardiff Rugby)

* Denotes uncapped player

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