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Wales v Georgia team news as Wayne Pivac makes 13 changes and four new players prepare for debuts

Wales will give debuts to James Botham, Johnny Williams and Kieran Hardy against Georgia on Saturday as they make 13 changes to the side beaten by Ireland.

Cardiff Blues flanker Botham comes straight in on the blindside for the Nations Cup clash at Parc y Scarlets, having only been called up to the squad on Monday.

He gets his chance amid continuing injury issues in the back row, with still no return for Josh Navidi and Ross Moriarty folllowing the concussion and ankle problems that have kept them out of the autumn internationals to date, while Taulupe Faletau has a minor knee tweak.

Born in the Welsh capital while his father Liam was playing for Cardiff, the 22-year-old Botham has made a big impression with the Blues since rugby returned in August, particularly with his serial tackling and work at the breakdown.

He has made just 13 appearances for his region, but has been marked out as a player of real potential for some time, having represented Wales through the age-grades.

Centre Williams has also shown up well with the Scarlets following his summer move from Newcastle, catching the eye with his direct running and footballing ability.

He was born in Weston-super-Mare, raised over the border and played for England against the Barbarians in June 2019.

But that was an uncapped match, so he remained eligible for Wales, who he qualifies for through his father from Rhyl, and now takes his bow at 12.

There’s also a debut for his Scarlets team-mate Hardy, who has consistently shone at scrum-half with his pace and support running since rejoining the region from Jersey.

Elsewhere, there are first starts for Bristol outside-half Callum Sheedy and teenage Gloucester winger Louis Rees-Zammit.

Like Botham, Scarlets speedster Johnny McNicholl cames straight into the side on the wing having only been called up on Monday.

He was ruled out of the original squad due to an ankle injury, but has been back for a few weeks now and gets the shout following a sparkling Man of the Match display against Connacht last Saturday.

McNicholl wears 14, with his regional colleague Liam Williams shifting to his Lions Test position of full-back.

Williams is one of only two survivors from the team beaten 32-9 by Ireland in Dublin.

The other is Justin Tipuric who captains the team on the openside.

Nick Tompkins makes his first start since the autumn opener against France, reverting to the outside centre berth where he made such a big impact in the Six Nations at the beginning of the year.

Up front, another player not originally named in the squad, Elliot Dee, packs down at hooker, with two experienced props alongside him in Wyn Jones and Samson Lee to counter the traditionally strong-scrummaging Georgians.

Seb Davies earns a first start of the campaign in a new look second row pairing with Jake Ball, while the versatile Aaron Wainwright gets a run-out at No 8.

There is set to be another debut off the bench, with 19-year-old Bristol utility back Ioan Lloyd ready to win his first cap, as he provides fly-half cover, while also being able to slot into the back three if required.

Rhys Patchell is unavailable through injury and has returned to the Scarlets to recuperate, while George North has been released to play for the Ospreys this weekend.

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Wales: Liam Williams; Johnny McNicholl, Nick Tompkins, Johnny Williams, Louis Rees-Zammit; Callum Sheedy, Kieran Hardy; Wyn Jones, Elliot Dee, Samson Lee, Jake Ball, Seb Davies, James Botham, Aaron Wainwright, Justin Tipuric (capt).

Replacements: Sam Parry, Nicky Smith, Leon Brown, Cory Hill, James Davies, Rhys Webb, Ioan Lloyd, Jonah Holmes.

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