Rugby-Wales hand wing Walker debut against South Africa


Nov 5 (Reuters) - Ospreys winger Eli Walker will make his Wales debut against South Africa on Saturday after head coach Warren Gatland plumped for the 21-year-old to fill the gap left by injured British and Irish Lion Alex Cuthbert.

Walker, who had been knocking on the door to pick up a first cap before injury ruled him out of this year's Six Nations Championship and the tour of Japan, is joined by George North on the wing for the test at the Millennium Stadium (1730 GMT).

Tuesday's team announcement also featured a recall for flyhalf Rhys Priestland, who missed much of last season through injury and comes in for Dan Biggar who helped Wales win the Six Nations.

Flanker Dan Lydiate also makes a return for the first time in more than a year.

"Since we have been together, competition in the squad has been good and it is great to have both Rhys and Dan back available for us," Gatland said in a statement.

"Eli has impressed for his Region and whilst with us and it's a great opportunity for him to make his mark in a very experienced side."

Saturday's match is the first of four tests at the Millennium Stadium this month with the visits of Argentina, Tonga and Australia to come.

"We go into the series as Six Nations Champions but we are looking forward to testing ourselves against the southern hemisphere sides and showing what we are can do," Gatland said.

"We always say we like to test ourselves against the best and Saturday is going to be just that with a huge game against South Africa first up.

"The Springboks arrive in the UK off the back of their impressive Rugby Championship campaign (where they finished second to world champions New Zealand) and we know that we need to start well on Saturday."

Cardiff Blues prop Gethin Jenkins will win his 99th cap and is joined in the front row by the experienced Richard Hibbard and Adam Jones, while the back row features Lions Lydiate, Sam Warburton and Toby Faletau.

Scrumhalf Mike Phillips, who was sacked by French club Bayonne last month for attending a video analysis session while under the influence of alcohol, also starts.

There will be plenty of interest in how Walker fares in his first international, which owes much to the ankle injury sustained by Cuthbert last month in Cardiff Blues' victory over Toulon in a Heineken Cup pool game.

Wales: 15-Leigh Halfpenny, 14-George North, 13-Jonathan Davies, 12-Scott Williams, 11-Eli Walker, 10-Rhys Priestland, 9-Mike Phillips; 8-Toby Faletau, 7-Sam Warburton, 6-Dan Lydiate, 5-Alun Wyn Jones, 4-Bradley Davies, 3-Adam Jones, 2-Richard Hibbard, 1-Gethin Jenkins

Replacements: 16-Ken Owens, 17-Paul James, 18-Scott Andrews, 19-Luke Charteris, 20-Justin Tipuric, 21-Lloyd Williams, 22-James Hook, 23-Liam Williams

(Reporting by Sonia Oxley; Editing by)

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