Hathaway to make debut as Thomas given Wales fly-half role

Josh Hathaway will become Wales 1,207 cap while Ben Thomas is the sixth fly-half Warren Gatland has selected since he returned as Wales head coach in December 2022

Cardiff centre Ben Thomas has been given the Wales fly-half role and wing Josh Hathaway will make his debut in the first Test against Australia in Sydney on Saturday.

Thomas, 25, replaces Sam Costelow and makes his first international start in his third Test match following two replacement appearances in 2021.

He partners Cardiff team-mate Ellis Bevan after the scrum-half made his debut in the 41-13 defeat against South Africa at Twickenham last month.

Gloucester wing Josh Hathaway, 20, is handed his debut on the wing with Liam Williams switching to full-back to replace Cameron Winnett.

Bath tight-head prop Archie Griffin will make his first Test start in his second international while Christ Tshiunza is named at lock alongside Exeter team-mate Dafydd Jenkins with the recalled Cory Hill on the bench.

Prop Dillon Lewis and lock Ben Carter were ruled out through injury.

Number eight Aaron Wainwright will win his 50th cap after making his first Wales appearance as a replacement in the 23-10 win over Argentina in 2018.

Wainwright is only one of three starting survivors, alongside Williams and prop Gareth Thomas, from the side that beat Australia 40-6 in the World Cup in Lyon last September.

New face at number 10

Ben Thomas in training with Wales in Australia
Ben Thomas has made 78 appearances for Cardiff [Huw Evans Agency]

Wales head coach Warren Gatland only named one specialist fly-half in Costelow for the summer squad with Thomas and fellow Cardiff player Jacob Beetham acting as cover.

Wales have been searching for a fly-half successor to the retired Dan Biggar and unavailable Gareth Anscombe, with Costelow starting four games in the Six Nations and the defeat against the Springboks.

Gatland says he has been looking for more physical options at 10 and overlooked Ioan Lloyd for the Australia trip.

Thomas has only made one start at 10 for Cardiff this season with 16 appearances in his more natural inside-centre position.

South African fly-half Tinus de Beer started almost every match for the Arms Park side, while Callum Sheedy will arrive at Cardiff from Bristol for next season.

Costelow has been named as a replacement this weekend.

Wing and a prayer

Hathaway was named in Wales' training squad for the summer Tests but was unavailable for the defeat by South Africa because the match fell outside World Rugby's international window which ruled out English-based club players.

Aberystwyth-born Hathaway, who has represented Wales and England at under-20 level, offers options at full-back and wing.

Wales have moved to secure his services after Exeter wing Immanuel Feyi-Waboso was in a similar position earlier this season and chose to play for England.

After missing the Six Nations because of his club commitments in Japan, Williams reverts to his favoured full-back position with Cameron Winnett dropping out of the first XV after starting the last six internationals.

Williams, 33, is the team's most experienced campaigner and is set to win his 91st cap for Wales with five further Tests played for the British and Irish Lions.

Mason Grady, who played most of his rugby on the wing for Cardiff last season, also continues out of position at inside-centre having been given the number 12 jersey against South Africa for the first time in his senior career.

He will partner Owen Watkin once more, with Nick Tompkins named on the bench.

Forward selections

Griffin, 22, will make his first international start in the Sydney city where he was born.

He is Welsh-qualified through his parents and has previously made one brief replacement appearance against England at Twickenham in February.

Tomas Francis has been Wales' long-time tight-head first-choice option but has not played since the World Cup and his move to French side Provence, while Leon Brown, Keiron Assiratti and Henry Thomas are unavailable through injury.

Scarlets prop Harri O'Connor is named on the bench with Lewis not involved.

Tshiunza will play his first game for Wales since the World Cup, while Hill will be involved on the international stage for the first time since the 2021 Six Nations defeat to France in Paris.

Hill was playing fourth division rugby in Japan before his international recall.

Wales have second-row issues with Adam Beard and Teddy Williams injured and Will Rowlands rested for the summer series.

Dragons duo Carter and Matthew Screech played against South Africa but neither will be involved against the Wallabies this weekend.

Defeating the Wallabies

Wales have lost their last seven internationals since defeating Georgia in the World Cup and have not beaten the Wallabies in Australia since 1969.

Australia have a new head coach in Joe Schmidt who has taken over from Eddie Jones.

The Wallabies have also named an inexperienced team with a new skipper in flanker Liam Wright, and centre Josh Flook and lock Jeremy Williams making their debuts.

There are five newcomers among the replacements, including Tom Lynagh, who is the son of Wallabies World Cup winner Michael and brother of Italy international Louis.

Only prop James Slipper, number eight Rob Valetini and wing Andrew Kellaway started the World Cup record defeat against Wales in France last year.

“We’ve had a good week of preparations here in Sydney and are excited to get out on field on Saturday," said Gatland.

“This first Test is going to be a great challenge for us.

"Test matches are all about fine margins and we know we need to be accurate, keep our discipline and stay in the fight for the full 80 minutes.

“There’s a lot of talent within the Australia squad and we know they will want to come out firing and put in a performance against us this weekend."

Australia: Tom Wright; Andrew Kellaway, Josh Flook, Hunter Paisami, Filipo Daugunu; Noah Lolesio, Jake Gordon: James Slipper, Matt Faessler, Taniela Tupou, Jeremy Williams, Lukhan Salakaia-Loto, Liam Wright (capt), Fraser McReight, Rob Valetini.

Replacements: Billy Pollard, Isaac Kailea, Allan Alaalatoa, Angus Blyth, Charlie Cale, Tate McDermott, Tom Lynagh, Dylan Pietsch.

Wales: Liam Williams; Josh Hathaway, Owen Watkin, Mason Grady, Rio Dyer; Ben Thomas, Ellis Bevan; Gareth Thomas, Dewi Lake (capt), Archie Griffin, Christ Tshiunza, Dafydd Jenkins, Taine Plumtree, Tommy Reffell, Aaron Wainwright.

Replacements: Evan Lloyd, Kemsley Mathias, Harri O'Connor, Cory Hill, James Botham, Kieran Hardy, Sam Costelow, Nick Tompkins.