Jones returns as captain for Wales

Stephen Jones returns to captain Wales at fly half against New Zealand in the final Invesco Perpetual Series clash of the autumn at the Millennium Stadium on Saturday (kick-off 5.00pm).

Jones has recovered from the knee problem which caused him to leave the field early during the 29-29 draw with Australia at the beginning of the month and will lead out a side against the All Blacks showing four changes from the one who overpowered Canada in Cardiff last Friday night.

In the backs, Jones replaces Ospreys youngster James Hook at fly-half, with Dragons full back Kevin Morgan coming in for the injured Gareth Thomas (knee) at full back.

The other two changes come in the front row with Cardiff Blues hooker Rhys T Thomas preferred to Llanelli Scarlets’ Matthew Rees and Duncan Jones – the Wales captain in the victory over the Pacific Islanders which preceded the Canada success – getting the nod over Blues prop Gethin Jenkins.

Jenkins joins a bench which includes Ospreys’ trio Gavin Henson, Hook and Alun Wyn Jones, Scarlets pair Alix Popham and hooker Rees and Blues scrum half Mike Phillips.

“We had been hoping Stephen would make a full recovery and he couldn’t have timed it better,” said Wales coach Gareth Jenkins.

“We can’t underestimate the boost he will give to the team and it is all the more fantastic that he returns to us fully fit, given the magnitude of the task ahead against the best team in world rugby at the moment.

“He is not only our captain and our leader on the pitch, but also a pivotal player at fly half. He brings with him a wealth of experience at international level and he will have a calming and positive influence on our preparations this week.

“Obviously Gareth Thomas’ injury is disappointing, but we still feel we have selected from a strong squad and we have quality in every position right through the side, including those players who feature on the bench.

“There is no doubt that the game will be won or lost collectively by the 22 players we have chosen to represent Wales and we very much believe in the talent we have available within this group.”

Sonny Parker, a late addition to the starting line-up against Canada after Henson withdrew due to a toe problem, retains his place at inside centre after the New Zealand-born Osprey recovered from a groin strain.

“Sonny very much played himself into the selection debate with two solid performances since coming out of retirement, against Canada and the Pacific Islanders,” said Jenkins.

“He comes into an exciting back line with the kind of pace and power which can hopefully match New Zealand and enable us to take our game-plan to them.

“In the front row Rhys Thomas and Duncan Jones are both given their chance to test themselves against the best team in the world.

“We go into this game with a huge amount of self belief and a weight of expectation that is nowhere higher than it is in this camp. We know we are playing the number one team in world rugby, but we also know they are human beings. They play rugby better than any other side in the world and they are at a level we are striving to reach, but we still intend to approach this game looking to beat them.

“We relish the chance to test ourselves against the might of the All Blacks and will come away from this challenge with a true sense of where we are on the world stage. Our players know they are talented and we know we can beat any side if we reach our full potential and get things right. On Saturday we will find out just how near to getting it right we are.”

WALES: Kevin Morgan; Mark Jones, Tom Shanklin, Sonny Parker, Shane Williams; Stephen Jones (C), Dwayne Peel; Duncan Jones, Rhys Thomas, Adam Jones, Ian Gough, Ian Evans, Jonathan Thomas, Martyn Williams, Ryan Jones

Replacements: Matthew Rees, Gethin Jenkins, Alun Wyn Jones, Alix Popham, Michael Phillips, James Hook, Ga

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