Wales recall George North for closing Autumn Nations Cup game against Italy

Wales recall George North for closing Autumn Nations Cup game against Italy

Wayne Pivac expects to end an underwhelming first year in charge of Wales on a high with victory against Italy on Saturday at Parc y Scarlets in a match that will decide who finishes fifth in the Autumn Nations Cup.

Wales have made 10 changes, one positional, from the side that lost to England in Llanelli last weekend, but a sign of the transition from Warren Gatland’s 12 years in charge is that there are only five survivors in the starting lineup from Pivac’s opening game as head coach against Italy 10 months ago, with none of the replacements that day beginning the game.

The only backs remaining are the wing Josh Adams and the centre George North. The latter returns after missing the last two matches, included more for the experience he offers, with Wales’s half-backs and inside-centre having won six caps between them, than form.

“We were always going to use this game to give guys opportunities,” said Pivac. “This is the time to get answers. We want to build depth as well as get a result. We are improving slowly and I would not be surprised if we have a very good outing on the weekend.”

It will be Wales’s 10th Test this year and their two victories have been against Italy and Georgia who are both outside the top 10 of the world rankings. Sam Parry makes his first start at hooker while James Botham continues in the back row, moving to the blind-side to accommodate Justin Tipuric.

The Welsh Rugby Union is putting pressure on the devolved government to come up with a financial rescue package for its clubs that Westminster did for the English game last month. “It is no longer a want but a requirement‚” said the WRU’s interim chief executive, Steve Phillips, who is also pushing for a date to be set for the return of crowds in Wales. “We are looking for parity, on a fair and proportionate basis, with what has been provided to English rugby. All aspects of the game are under enormous stress and we should not be at a disadvantage to our near neighbours.”