Alun Wyn Jones will become rugby’s most capped international when he captains Wales against Scotland in Llanelli on Saturday on an afternoon when his protege, Shane Lewis-Hughes, wins his first cap.
Jones will be making his 149th Test appearance to overtake Richie McCaw while the Cardiff Blues forward Lewis-Hughes is one of six changes from the side that lost to France in Paris last weekend as the Wales head coach, Wayne Pivac, places emphasis on ball-carrying.
Two Premiership players, Exeter’s Tomas Francis, and Wasps’ Will Rowlands, who has been linked with a move to the Dragons, have fortified the front five while Gareth Davies replaces the injured Rhys Webb at scrum-half. Owen Watkin takes over from Nick Tompkins in the midfield and Liam Williams has displaced George North on the wing.
“Shane will give us more starch in defence,” said Pivac. “Alun Wyn said he has been waiting 15 years for someone like him to come along. Shane is his clone, leaving the team room between 9.30pm and 10 each night, and the captain has taken him on as a project.
“We want to develop depth in all positions and the tight five is an area where we need more size. I had a long conversation with George and he is the first to admit he did not have his best game in Paris. It was quite an easy call, but he will be able to play his way back into the team.”
Wales have lost their past four matches and a fifth would leave them reflecting on their worst Six Nations campaign since 2007, the previous one when Warren Gatland was not at the helm. Scotland have not won in Wales since 2002.
“The result is not lost on us,” said Pivac. “We need a win and a performance to go with it. It will not be easy with Scotland playing well and it would be silly not to gear up for bad weather, a twist for a home game for us [there is no roof on Parc y Scarlets].”
Scotland have made four changes from the side that defeated Georgia last Friday. Stuart Hogg and Jonny Gray return after helping Exeter to a European and Premiership double and the fly-half Finn Russell will make his first start since last year’s World Cup.
The fourth change is a visitor who will feel at home in Llanelli, the Scarlets No 8 Blade Thomson, who takes over from the injured Matt Fagerson as Scotland look to finish in the top half of the table for only the fifth time in the Six Nations era.
“We were highly motivated back in March and that extra edge has come back into our preparations this week,” said the Scotland head coach, Gregor Townsend. “The game gives us an opportunity to end the extended championship on a positive note and give us added belief to take into the autumn campaign.”