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Williams starts at fullback as Wales support former captain Thomas after homophobic attack

South Africa have named an unchanged team for Saturday’s Test in Cardiff.

Liam Williams facing Tonga.
Liam Williams facing Tonga.
Image: Mike Egerton

COACH WARREN GATLAND has stuck with Gareth Anscombe at fly-half for a Wales team bidding for a ninth consecutive victory when they take on South Africa on Saturday.

The Welsh squad, which will don rainbow laces in support of former captain Gareth Thomas after he was the victim of a homophobic attack earlier in the week, shows just one injury-enforced change from the one that edged Australia 9-6 a fortnight ago.

Saracens back Liam Williams, who scored a brace of tries from the wing as he won his 50th cap in the 74-24 victory over Tonga last weekend, comes in at fullback in place of Leigh Halfpenny.

Halfpenny suffered concussion after a late shot by Wallaby centre Samu Kerevi, an action that went unpunished.

Gatland made 14 changes for the victory over Tonga but has reverted to the side that defeated the Wallabies.

Williams lines up in the backline alongside fellow British and Irish Lion George North and Josh Adams.

Scarlets duo Hadleigh Parkes and Jonathan Davies are named in midfield with Gareth Davies and Anscombe continuing their partnership at half-back.

In the pack Nicky Smith, Ken Owens and Tomas Francis are again named in the front-row with Adam Beard, unbeaten in a Wales jersey, lining up alongside captain Alun Wyn Jones.

Dan Lydiate, Justin Tipuric and Ross Moriarty pack down in the back-row for a third time together this autumn.

“We have rewarded the team that faced Australia with another start this weekend,” said Gatland.

“Leigh [Halfpenny] misses out with concussion but it’s a great opportunity for Liam [Williams] at full-back.

We are really pleased with how the bench has gone in the first three games so we will be looking for that impact again on Saturday.”

Gatland admitted that picking the team had been tough, notably given the sterling shows fly-halves Dan Biggar and Rhys Patchell produced against Tonga.

“There were a lot of tough selection calls, but that is what we want. The team that played last week was hugely impressive and there are some disappointed boys who miss out,” the Kiwi said.

“We want to end the campaign with a big performance against a very good South African side.”

Elliot Dee, Rob Evans and Dillon Lewis provide the front-row cover on the bench with Cory Hill and Ellis Jenkins completing the forwards. Tomos Williams, Dan Biggar and Owen Watkin provide the backline cover.

Wales are looking to complete a first sweep of autumn Test victories after opening up with a 21-10 win over Scotland.

They are also chasing a ninth successive win against all opponents, which would equal their longest unbeaten run since 1999.

South Africa touch down in Cardiff on the back of a 26-20 victory over the Scots, following an injury-time 29-26 win over France and 12-11 defeat by England. Rassie Erasmus names an unchanged team for the first time this season, with Jesse Kriel set to win his 40th cap in midfield.

“Wales have a formidable squad and their current run of eight unbeaten Tests is proof and also an indication of their good form at the moment,” Erasmus said.

“We know Saturday’s Test is going to be our most difficult match of the tour.”

Rugby Union - Rugby World Cup 2015 - Quarter Final - Ireland v Argentina - Millennium Stadium Gareth Thomas. Source: Mike Egerton

Meanwhile, the Welsh players will wear rainbow laces in support of former captain Gareth Thomas in the match after he was the victim of a homophobic assault.

Thomas, 44, who came out as gay in 2009, posted a video on Twitter on Sunday saying he had been a victim of a hate crime in Cardiff “for my sexuality”.

Police dealt with a 16-year-old boy using restorative justice following a request by Thomas, who wanted to send a “positive message”.

Last year captain Alun Wyn Jones wore rainbow laces during Wales’s clash with New Zealand to show support for the LGBT community.

We are delighted to confirm that Welsh rugby is once again proudly endorsing Stonewall Cymru’s Rainbow Laces initiative throughout its two-week 2018 awareness campaign, whilst continuing to permanently support its values on a year-round basis,” said a WRU spokesperson.

France were the first team to announce earlier in the week that they would be wearing rainbow laces during their match against Fiji on Saturday in support of Thomas.

“He [Gareth Thomas] attracted the attention of every rugby country with the abuse he suffered,” France coach Jacques Brunel said on Thursday.

“I think rugby must support him. We’re going to show our total disapproval of this behaviour. We want to support Gareth Thomas wholeheartedly.”

Thomas played in France for three years with Toulouse from 2004.

Wales

15. Liam Williams
14. George North
13. Jonathan Davies
12. Hadleigh Parkes
11. Josh Adams
10. Gareth Anscombe
9. Gareth Davies

8. Ross Moriarty
7. Justin Tipuric
6. Dan Lydiate
5. Alun Wyn Jones (captain)
4. Adam Beard
3. Tomas Francis
2. Ken Owens
1. Nicky Smith

Replacements:

16. Elliot Dee
17. Rob Evans
18. Dillon Lewis
19. Cory Hill
20. Ellis Jenkins
21. Tomos Williams
22. Dan Biggar
23. Owen Watkin

South Africa

15. Willie le Roux
14. Sbu Nkosi
13. Jesse Kriel
12. Damian de Allende
11. Aphiwe Dyantyi
10. Handre Pollard
9. Embrose Papier

8. Duane Vermeulen
7. Pieter-Steph du Toit
6. Siya Kolisi (captain)
5. Franco Mostert
4. RG Snyman
3. Frans Malherbe
2. Malcolm Marx
1. Steven Kitshoff

Replacements:

16. Bongi Mbonambi
17. Thomas du Toit
18. Vincent Koch
19. Eben Etzebeth
20. Francois Louw
21. Ivan van Zyl
22. Elton Jantjies
23. Cheslin Kolbe

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AFP

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