Howley has faith in youthful Wales

Wed, 30 May 15:50:54 2012

Caretaker coach Rob Howley expects "a highly-motivated" Wales team to take the field in Saturday's farewell game before tackling Australia Down Under.

Howley, in temporary charge while Wales supremo Warren Gatland recovers from two fractured heels at his New Zealand home, will parade three new caps against Millennium Stadium visitors the Barbarians - Scarlets full-back Liam Williams and prop Rhodri Jones, together with Cardiff Blues wing Harry Robinson.

"It has been interesting in terms of the dynamic of selecting the side for this game in terms of selecting on reward, on building depth and looking at fresh talent," Howley said. "I think all those ingredients are in the team on Saturday, and all the guys will be highly-motivated."

The uncapped trio have a combined age of just 60, only 24 years older than flanker Martyn Williams, who is among Wales' replacements and set to win his 100th cap, joining Welsh centurions Stephen Jones and Gareth Thomas.

Welsh rugby's current feelgood factor, generated by winning this season's RBS 6 Nations title with a Grand Slam just five months after reaching the World Cup semi-finals, is supported by an anticipated crowd of around 50,000.

"When you've won the Grand Slam and been in a World Cup semi-final, it would be pretty ridiculous to change things," Howley added. "It is business as normal, really. We feel that we have a squad that has been together for a long period of time and has the appetite to wear that national jersey."

A 16-strong group of players, including uncapped Ospreys centre Ashley Beck, are set to leave for Australia on Thursday with assistant coach and defence specialist Shaun Edwards.

That list, which also includes star names such as Sam Warburton, Mike Phillips, George North, Adam Jones, Dan Lydiate and Toby Faletau, will step up preparations for the first Test in Brisbane on June 9

The remaining 18 tour squad members then arrive Down Under early next week, with Howley intending to finalise names after Saturday's Baa-baas encounter.

"We have picked a side on form, with an eye on bringing players through for the future, but very much with the intention of getting the summer campaign off to a winning start," he added. "We have an opportunity against the Barbarians to get an important summer series off to a winning start."

 

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