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Give Keelan Giles time, urges Wales interim head coach Rob Howley

Published 17/11/2016

Wales' interim head coach Rob Howley has made 10 changes to the starting line-up for Saturday's Test match against Japan
Wales' interim head coach Rob Howley has made 10 changes to the starting line-up for Saturday's Test match against Japan

Rob Howley has urged an expectant Welsh public to give teenage sensation Keelan Giles time and space as he prepares for a potential Test match debut.

The 18-year-old Ospreys wing's blistering pace and dazzling footwork have already drawn comparisons with Wales' record international try-scorer Shane Williams.

And a Principality Stadium crowd of more than 70,000 could see what all the fuss is about on Saturday after Giles was named among Wales' replacements for their autumn series clash against Japan.

Wales Under-20 international Giles has scored eight tries in five games this season, earning rave reviews as a rare talent who could have a long Test career ahead of him. If he is capped this weekend, Giles will become Wales' 11th youngest senior international.

When asked on Thursday what the Welsh public should expect from Giles, Wales' interim head coach Howley adopted a cautious stance.

"Give him time," he said. " Don't give him as many headlines as he has had over the last couple of weeks.

"The Ospreys and (head coach) Steve Tandy have been particularly impressive in how they have developed a young talent. It is important we continue that on the international scene.

"Hopefully, he will have an opportunity to come on on the wing in an experienced back three, so he can enjoy his first touch of the ball in international rugby."

Howley has made 10 changes to the starting XV following last weekend's solid 24-20 victory over Argentina.

The switches include a recall for centre Jamie Roberts, who was dropped to the bench against the Pumas, and opportunities for the likes of Cardiff Blues half-backs Gareth Anscombe and Lloyd Williams, Ospreys prop Nicky Smith and Newport Gwent Dragons lock Cory Hill.

Liam Williams and Leigh Halfpenny, meanwhile, swap positions with Williams moving to full-back and Halfpenny on the wing, with flanker Sam Warburton captaining the team.

Halfpenny makes his first Wales start as a wing since the 2011 World Cup, and Roberts is reunited with midfield partner Jonathan Davies for a 46th time.

Among those players not involved in the matchday 23 as Wales build towards next week's Cardiff appointment with South Africa are established internationals such as wing George North, fly-half Dan Biggar, prop Gethin Jenkins and lock Luke Charteris.

Elsewhere in the team, Anscombe wins his ninth cap, but it will be a first start at fly-half, and Hill makes a full Test debut after going on as a replacement against Australia 12 days ago, when Wales were crushed 32-8.

"It is an opportunity for some of the players to put their hands up after a disappointing performance against Australia," Howley added.

"There is also a chance to blood some new players with experienced players around them like Cory Hill alongside Alun Wyn Jones, James King alongside Dan Lydiate and Sam Warburton, and Keelan and Sam (Davies) coming on in an experienced back line.

"We are playing Liam in his preferred 15 role. I feel it is the best three to play in the back three against Japan. It is as simple as that.

"It is about seeing the combination of Leigh and Liam playing together. George (North) has played the last two games and, as I have said, it is important we give everyone an opportunity to put their hand up for next week."

Wales include three starting line-up survivors from the side beaten by Japan in Tokyo three years ago - Liam Williams, Lloyd Williams and back-row forward James King - but the countries' four previous Cardiff encounters saw Wales post a total of 289 points.

"They (Japan) had a really good win against Georgia last weekend (28-22 in Tbilisi)," Howley said. "The tries they scored in that game sums up Japan over the last couple of years.

"They play a high-octane game. They are a great counter-attacking side, and we have to be on our mettle."

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