Macleod set for Wales debut as Pivac rings changes for Georgia

Scarlets back-row Josh Macleod is set to make his long-awaited Wales debut after being named in a much-changed starting XV to face Georgia in Cardiff on Saturday.

Macleod, who will pack down at No 8 for this Autumn Nations Series match, was selected to play in the run-on side against Scotland during last year's Six Nations but ruptured his Achilles tendon in training just days before the game.

But barring similar misfortune, he is now in line to win his first cap after being named Tuesday by coach Wayne Pivac in a XV to play Georgia showing six changes from the Wales team that took the field for last week's 20-13 win at home to Argentina.

Pivac has also called up wing Josh Adams, centre Owen Watkin, fly-half Rhys Priestland, flanker Jac Morgan and lock Ben Carter.

"Josh Macleod's a player that's been really unfortunate in the past," said Pivac.

"We know a lot about him, I've coached him at the Scarlets," the New Zealander added.

"He brings a lot of energy, he's very strong over the ball and in tandem with Jac Morgan hopefully that will be a strong part of our game on the weekend.

"We're looking forward to seeing him go at this level and seeing the physicality that he will bring."

There are two uncapped players on the bench in 19-year-old Exeter lock Dafydd Jenkins and Scarlets scrum-half Dane Blacker.

Experienced full-back Leigh Halfpenny, who last played for Wales 16 months ago, is also among the replacements but former Wales captain Alun Wyn Jones has failed to make a matchday 23 for the second successive game.

Pivac has retained nine of the team who started last weekend's much-needed win over Argentina that saw Wales bounce back from their 55-23 thrashing by New Zealand in their Autumn Nations opener.

The coach has also kept Louis Rees-Zammit at full-back after the Gloucester wing impressed against the Pumas.

Georgia are in Wales' group at next year's World Cup in France, as are Australia, with Pivac's men wrapping up their end-of-year campaign against the Wallabies in Cardiff on November 26.

"The spine of the team is there," said Pivac. "It's very much about the here and now, we've got a game to play against Georgia and we have to be successful. But there's also an eye to the Australia match."

He added: "Georgia are a side that will be not too dissimilar to Argentina in terms of the forward play, they're very strong up front.

"We need to back up the performance against Argentina, be a lot more clinical with the ball."

Wales (15-1)

Louis Rees-Zammit; Alex Cuthbert, George North, Owen Watkin, Josh Adams; Rhys Priestland, Tomos Williams; Josh Macleod, Justin Tipuric (capt), Jac Morgan; Adam Beard, Ben Carter; Dillon Lewis, Ken Owens, Gareth Thomas

Replacements: Bradley Roberts, Rhodri Jones, Sam Wainwright, Dafydd Jenkins, Taulupe Faletau, Dane Blacker, Sam Costelow, Leigh Halfpenny

Coach: Wayne Pivac (NZL)

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