Sam Warburton left out as Wales ring the changes for Samoa match

Wales have reacted to the indignity of losing to Argentina by changing more than half the side for Friday's night visit of Samoa to the Millennium Stadium.

It is less a panic measure and more a response to mounting injuries and a desire to give an opportunity to those few players who have been in form for their regions this season, notably the fly-half Dan Biggar and, at forward, Richard Hibbard and Justin Tipuric.

Tipuric's inclusion comes at the expense of Sam Warburton, the Wales captain, and while it was a choice that was always going to be made this month with four matches being played in successive weeks, it provides the headline moment.

Warburton, one of the contenders to lead the Lions next summer, has not had a strong start to the season and with Ryan Jones fit again to take over from Dan Lydiate at blindside flanker, the captaincy was not an issue this week.

Jones will lead Wales for a record 29th time. He was the team's regular captain until two years ago when, after a tame draw with Fiji, he was relieved of the responsibility immediately after the match.

While the Wales head coach, Warren Gatland, is not officially involved with the team as he focuses on the Lions – he will return for the final two matches of the autumn series, against New Zealand and Australia – he helped select the sides to face Argentina and Samoa. "With a short six-day turnaround it was important for us to freshen things up and also make use of the competition for places we have within this squad, something which has been a key ingredient for the success of the squad over the last 18 months," said Rob Howley, the Wales interim head coach.

Wales have changed every area of the team except the back three. Ashley Beck replaces Scott Williams in the centre where he will partner Jamie Roberts, who was passed fit despite suffering concussion last Saturday, and Biggar and Mike Phillips form a new half-back combination.

At forward, Paul James and Hibbard come into the front row, Bradley Davies takes over from the injured second-row Alun Wyn Jones and Toby Faletau is the only survivor in the back row.

"In making changes we also needed to bring in some genuine experience. It is important to have leaders throughout the team and we are hoping the likes of Mike Phillips, who made a positive impact last week, can bring his experience to the side," Howley said. "We know we are under pressure to perform and that pressure is greatest from within. This squad has shown in the past that we have the character and resilience to get back to winning ways. We have every confidence that will come back strongly on Friday night."

Ryan Jones said the mood of indignation and anger in Wales this week was something he had experienced many times before. "Some of the guys, who have only known success in the last 18 months at the World Cup and in the Six Nations, have not faced this pressure in their international career so far," he said.

"There is a feeling and a real desire to put it right this week, which is what we need. All in all, it was a poor team performance against Argentina and we paid the price. You can only put it right collectively. It's about making sure we take control of what we can. Samoa are tough, uncompromising and relentless. They are a nation that like confrontation, and when you face teams like that, first and foremost you have got to match it. If you don't, then you don't have enough ball or territory that dictates the outcome of a game.

"If we can play in the right areas and we can match their physicality, I think we will do well. What happened last weekend has no bearing whatsoever on this week. We can't have a hangover."

Samoa, even without the injured for-mer Premiership three-quarters Alesana Tuilagi and Seilala Mapusua, have chosen from strength: 15 of their 23 are based in England or France and they overlooked the likes of the Northampton wing Ken Pisi, the London Irish wing Sailosi Tagicakibau and the Ospreys No8 George Stowers.

"When we got into camp earlier this month we did not have all the players we wanted, but the International Rugby Board has been brilliant in ensuring that the regulation regarding release was applied," said the Samoa backs coach, Darryl Suasua. "We know it is going to be tough on Friday. Argentina did not do us any favours by beating Wales who have made several changes, calling up guys who will bring a lot of energy with them. They will want to prove a point.

"Samoa won in Cardiff in 1991 and 1999 because the players believed they could do it and that will again be the case this week. It is a big month for us with a final match in France next week: we want to break into the top eight in the world rankings, something a tier two nation has never done. It would be a brilliant achievement: our 30 players all come from different clubs in eight countries and being able to spend a long time together this month is huge for us."

Wales team to play Samoa

Leigh Halfpenny; Alex Cuthbert, Ashley Beck, Jamie Roberts, George North; Dan Biggar, Mike Phillips; Paul James, Richard Hibbard, Aaron Jarvis, Bradley Davies, Ian Evans, Ryan Jones (capt), Justin Tipuric, Toby Faletau. Replacements: Ken Owens, Gethin Jenkins, Scott Andrews, Luke Charteris, Sam Warburton, Tavis Knoyle, Rhys Priestland, Scott Williams.

Powered by article was written by Paul Rees, for The Guardian on Wednesday 14th November 2012 13.54 Europe/London © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010


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