Hook starts for Wales against Tonga

James Hook has been named to start his first Test for Wales in more than two years as Wales have named a much changed line up to Tonga at Cardiff’s Millennium Stadium on Friday.

Teenage back Hallam Amos has been named to make his international debut as Wales look to rest their stars for upcoming Tests.

The 19-year-old Amos, born in Stockport, north-west England but who moved to Wales aged four, was one of 11 changes to the team that thrashed Argentina 40-6 in Cardiff last weekend.

The four survivors were full-back Leigh Halfpenny, wing George North, flanker Justin Tipuric and prop Rhodri Jones in a team captained by No 8 Ryan Jones, with regular Wales and British and Irish Lions skipper Sam Warburton on the bench.

Amos was only called up to join the Wales training squad nine days ago, but he now goes into the team on the left wing, with Gatland likely to revert to his ‘first-choice’ side for next week’s concluding November Test against Australia.

Hook, excluding last year’s match against the Barbarians, will be making his first Test start since the 2011 World Cup bronze medal match defeat by the Wallabies in Auckland.

Now a full-back with French club Perpignan, it looked as if early in Hook’s Test career that his best position might be fly-half.

But the 28-year-old’s versatility — Hook has also played Test as a centre and full-back — has counted against him, especially given Wales have also been able to call on the likes of now retired fly-half Stephen Jones, centres Tom Shanklin, Gavin Henson, Jamie Roberts and Jonathan Davies, as well as Lions ace Halfpenny, during his international career.

There are six changes in the Wales pack, including starts for Newport Gwent Dragons flanker Andrew Coombs, Ospreys lock Ian Evans and Paul James, a prop with English club Bath.

Tonga arrive in Wales following a 38-18 loss to France in a fiery encounter in Le Havre and Gatland said: “Tonga are a typical South Sea Island side and will be physical, powerful and won’t take a backwards step.

“We pride ourselves on matching other sides’ physicality, and we will have to do that on Friday,” added Gatland, whose Wales team were rendered try-less by South Africa during a 24-15 loss in their opening November Test.

“It should be a great encounter with both sides looking to move the ball around.

“We have made a number of changes, but it’s a great opportunity for these guys to show us exactly how they cope with the international game,” the New Zealander explained.

“The whole squad has trained well since the start of the campaign and they deserve their chance,” added the 50-year-old Gatland, the former Ireland and Lions boss, who will celebrate his 100th Test as an international coach on Friday.


Leigh Halfpenny; George North, Owen Williams, Ashley Beck, Hallam Amos; James Hook, Lloyd Williams; Ryan Jones (capt), Justin Tipuric, Andrew Coombs; Ian Evans, Luke Charteris; Rhodri Jones, Ken Owens, Paul James

Replacements: Emyr Phillips, Ryan Bevington, Samson Lee, Dan Lydiate, Sam Warburton, Rhodri Williams, Rhys Priestland, Jordan Williams

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