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The completely new-look Wales team set to start against Fiji as Wayne Pivac rips up side

It’s the autumn Test in which Wales traditionally struggle to be at their very best — the one against a so-called second-tier nation where the hosts field a much-changed side and end up performing as if their head coach had gathered 15 strangers together on a street corner an hour before kick-off and asked if they all wanted a game.

For most of his tenure, Warren Gatland found it a challenge to find the right blend.

Pivac will doubtless take note against the dangerous Fijians, but he’ll also want to rest many of his frontliners ahead of Wales’ series finale against Australia.

READ MORE: The Wales versus South Africa fallout and reaction

Potentially, he could load his bench and offer starts to others who haven’t had chances so far in this campaign.

Here’s how his starting XV could look.

15. Liam Williams

He could have been Wales’ matchwinner against South Africa, only for a pitch invader to deem the script wasn’t to pan out that way.

Williams must wonder when the stars will align for him.

But he needs rugby and next Sunday would be a decent chance for the Scarlet to bank minutes with a view to challenging Johnny McNicholl for the full-back berth against Australia.

14. Louis Rees-Zammit

If Pivac uses form as the key selection driver when picking his side to face the Wallabies, Rees-Zammit will need to pull something useful out of the bag against Fiji.

Johnny McNicholl has played well this autumn, Liam Williams is not a player you’d leave out without a lot of thought and Josh Adams worked tirelessly against South Africa.

A good effort from Rees-Zammit against Fiji would give the selectors a dilemma for the game with Australia.

Another shaky display… well, let’s say it wouldn’t guarantee him anything.

13. Willis Halaholo

No Wales centre has made a clean break in this series so far, but Halaholo is renowned for his running and had been in form prior to the campaign starting.

A bout of Covid has knocked him out of the first two games.

If he’s fit, the likelihood is he’ll feature against Fiji and so allow Jon Davies the weekend off.

12. Johnny Williams

He’s a player Pivac has plenty of time for, despite his non-selection for the game with South Africa.

His replacement Nick Tompkins actually had a bright game, justifying the coach’s call in midfield.

But Williams is big and strong and will hope the story of his autumn campaign has yet to be written.

Scott Williams could be another option for Pivac.

The in-form Scarlet wouldn’t weaken the team, not by a long chalk.

11. Owen Lane

Attacked with promise against New Zealand but there was the occasional glitch in defence that he’ll need to eliminate from his game.

The key for Wales is to bring him into play with front-foot ball.

Lane is still settling at Test level, but he should be better for his experiences against the All Blacks.

10. Rhys Priestland

Unlucky to be left out of the 23 for the date with South Africa after rolling back the years with a classy show off the bench a week earlier.

Priestland is a player who thinks his way through games and makes good decisions.

With the 51-cap west Walian in the side, Pivac would know there’s a steady hand on the tiller.

9. Gareth Davies

The Lions scrum-half could be forgiven for feeling he has something to prove after being benched for the opening two Tests of the autumn.

Pivac evidently sees Tomos Williams as his number one scrum-half but Davies, a player with no shortage of self-belief or fight, will feel there’s nothing settled.

An outing against Fiji would give him the chance to see if he can change the coach’s opinion.

Kieran Hardy could provide bench cover.

1. Wyn Jones

You felt sorry for the Test Lion on Saturday — on for a few minutes here, part of a destroyed scrum there, then back for the final 11 minutes with Wales on the retreat and the scrum still being subjected to all manner of indignities.

That’s no foundation for a big individual performance for a prop.

A stat sent this writer’s way on Sunday afternoon suggested Jones had conceded six penalties in his last 14 Test scrummages. There are reasons for that, not least that he had a bad back in the final Lions Test and was messed about a bit against the Springboks.

The expectation is that Pivac will give Jones a chance to tune up for the game with Australia.

2. Bradley Roberts

With Ken Owens likely to be off limits until the Australia game, Elliot Dee also sidelined by injury and Ryan Elias potentially in need of a rest after gruelling Tests against the top two sides in the world, it could be that Wales give a first start to new cap Roberts.

He appears to have nudged above Kirby Myhill in the pecking order and has looked convincing for Ulster this term.



Bradley Roberts appears to have impressed in Wales training

His training performances with Wales have been good with reports suggesting he’s shown impressive physicality.

He’ll want to build on his cameo against the Boks.

3. WillGriff John

It went under the radar a bit, but John won his first Wales cap on Saturday.

Patience and perseverance have been rewarded.

He was part of a scrum that more-often-than-not resembled a dynamited chimney stack, mind; there again, whoever Wales had fielded at prop the result would probably have been the same.

Tom Francis should be allowed to recharge for the Australia game.

4. Will Rowlands

One of Wales’ top performers against South Africa, he could be asked to go again depending how Rhys Davies has shaped up in training.

The likelihood is Davies will be involved in some capacity, perhaps off the bench.

After banging in his best Test performance , Rowlands would no doubt be keen to keep the momentum going.

5. Ben Carter

A Dragons combination at lock?

Potentially.

Carter is rated as a player who’s going to play a lot of rugby for Wales. Fiji would pose a big Test for him, and Argentina asked questions of him in the summer, but he is someone who can be relied on to pile up tackles and graft tirelessly.



Ben Carter could start for Wales against Fiji

6. Shane Lewis-Hughes

Ellis Jenkins at six, with a pat on the back and the captaincy?

Maybe; maybe not.

Might it be wiser to keep Jenkins, who presumably still needs an element of TLC after so long out with injury, in reserve for the autumn’s grand finale against Australia?

It’s one for Pivac to work out.

But he does need a hard-hitter in the back row who will break up Fijian attacks with reliable tackling.

Lewis-Hughes might just be that man.

7. Thomas Young

Young went back to Wasps for the weekend and was named on the bench for their Gallagher Premiership clash with Harlequins.

Is he fully up to speed with the Wales scene and familiar with their calls and way of playing?

If he is, his chance could come against Fiji.

It would be good to see him play, for he is a forward who boasts skill and dynamism around the field.

8. Seb Davies

Again, Pivac could use Ellis Jenkins here, with the Cardiff player having the ability to operate across the back row.

Aaron Wainwright appeared to pick up a knock against the Springboks.

It could be an issue for Wales then.

But Davies has coped duties reasonably well in this campaign and deserves a chance to show what he can do from the start.

With his handling skills and athleticism, he is a player who fits the Pivac mould.

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