Scarlets duo Liam Williams and Samson Lee have been named in a far from full strength Wales team for Sunday’s opening Rugby World Cup Pool A match against Uruguay.
Fullback Williams and prop Lee make their long-awaited return from injuries, the former slotting into Leigh Halfpenny’s slot at the back, while Lee packs down with Ospreys duo Paul James and Scott Baldwin, veteran prop Gethin Jenkins rested for the game against the South American amateurs.
“It is great to have Liam and Samson back in the starting line-up. They have trained incredibly hard and Sunday is a great opportunity for them,” coach Warren Gatland said ahead of the match at Cardiff’s Millennium Stadium.
“It’s a great opportunity for all the players and it’s an exciting time ahead.”
In a reshuffled side against the minnows of the so-called “group of death” that also includes hosts England, two-time champions and second-ranked Australia and an exciting looking Fiji, Williams will form a back-three alongside Alex Cuthbert and Hallam Amos.
Cory Allen and Scott Williams make up the midfield partnership, while Rhys Priestland starts at fly-half alongside Gareth Davies.
Incumbent fly-half Dan Biggar, centre Jamie Roberts and winger George North are rested, with Gatland’s eye undoubtedly on the more taxing matches to come.
Jake Ball and Luke Charteris pack down in the second-row, normal starter Alun Wyn Jones not even named in the match-day 23, while there is a new-look back row with captain Sam Warburton starting at blindside flanker alongside Justin Tipuric and James King at No.8.
“The squad are extremely excited to kick their Rugby World Cup campaign off on Sunday,” Gatland said.
“Playing in a World Cup, in your home country, at your home ground, is a great honour and I’m sure the players will take that into the game.
“Uruguay will be looking to show what they are capable of and we know we need to be clinical on Sunday.”
Ken Owens, Aaron Jarvis and Tomas Francis are named as the front-row replacements along with three further forwards – Dominic Day, Dan Lydiate and Ross Moriarty. Lloyd Williams and Matthew Morgan complete the replacements.
Liam Williams; Alex Cuthbert, Cory Allen, Scott Williams, Hallam Amos; Rhys Priestland, Gareth Davies; James King, Justin Tipuric, Sam Warburton (capt); Jake Ball, Luke Charteris; Samson Lee, Scott Baldwin, Paul James. Res: Ken Owens, Aaron Jarvis, Tomas Francis, Dominic Day, Dan Lydiate, Ross Moriarty, Lloyd Williams, Matthew Morgan