Wales hand Dyer baptism of fire against New Zealand

Uncapped Dragons winger Rio Dyer faces a baptism of fire after being named in the Wales team to play New Zealand at Cardiff's Principality Stadium on Saturday.

"Rio has fitted in really well and really quickly. He's thriving in this environment," Wales coach Wayne Pivac said Thursday.

"He's a young man that's bringing some form with him into camp. He scored some great tries and he's full of confidence.

"That means a lot to a young guy playing his first Test match in front of a big crowd. There's no better way to start your career so we wish him well."

Justin Tipuric will skipper the side from blindside flanker, returning to the Wales XV for the first time since the 2021 Six Nations match against France.

He is joined in the starting line-up by Ken Owens (hooker) and Leigh Halfpenny (fullback), who will also make their first appearances for Wales in more than a year.

New Zealand-born Gareth Anscombe is named at fly half, having worn the number 10 jersey in the same fixture last year, with Tomos Williams at scrum-half.

Louis Rees-Zammit is on the other wing, with George North and Nick Tompkins partnering up in the centre for the fourth consecutive match.

Alongside captain Tipuric in the Wales back row are in-form Leicester openside Tommy Reffell and No 8 Taulupe Faletau.

Gareth Thomas and Tomas Francis will prop down alongside Owens, with Adam Beard and Will Rowlands combining in the second row for the ninth time.

Among the replacements Ryan Elias, Nicky Smith and Dillon Lewis provide the front row cover. Alun Wyn Jones and Christ Tshiunza are the other forwards in line to make an appearance from the bench. Kieran Hardy, Rhys Priestland and Owen Watkin round out the Wales match day squad.

"It's great having Ken Owens, Justin Tipuric and Leigh Halfpenny back," said Pivac.

"They bring a lot of experience and they are big game players. Playing New Zealand doesn't get much bigger so we're really looking forward to having them back in the side.

"New Zealand are going to play with speed, we know that. The roof is closed so we're looking forward to a fast, open game and I think Justin brings that extra bit of speed to the number six jersey. So the back-row combination we think will work well."

Pivac, himself a Kiwi, added: "It doesn't get much bigger than Wales-New Zealand. I remember coming to games prior to getting this role and a full house, the bands and pre-match is just fantastic.

"We can't wait for it, the players are looking forward to it and we just want the fans to get in there and be loud and really get behind the boys and be that 16th player that we know they are."

Wales team (15-1) to play New Zealand at Cardiff's Principality Stadium on Saturday (kick-off 1415 GMT):

Leigh Halfpenny; Louis Rees-Zammit, George North, Nick Tompkins, Rio Dyer; Gareth Anscombe, Tomos Williams; Taulupe Faletau, Tommy Reffell, Justin Tipuric (capt); Adam Beard, Will Rowlands; Tomas Francis, Ken Owens, Gareth Thomas

Replacements: Ryan Elias, Nicky Smith, Dillon Lewis, Alun Wyn Jones, Christ Tshiunza, Kieran Hardy, Rhys Priestland, Owen Watkin

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