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Gatland makes nine changes for last match as Wales coach

Wales have lost four players to injury for the bronze medal game against New Zealand.

Warren Gatland has made nine changes for his final match as Wales coach in the play-off for third against New Zealand (David Davies/PA)
Warren Gatland has made nine changes for his final match as Wales coach in the play-off for third against New Zealand (David Davies/PA)

By Andrew Baldock, PA Rugby Union Correspondent, Tokyo

Wales have lost four players through injury for their Rugby World Cup bronze medal match against New Zealand in Tokyo on Friday.

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Full-back Leigh Halfpenny (concussion), wing George North (hamstring), prop Tomas Francis (shoulder) and flanker Aaron Wainwright (hamstring) all miss out after starting the semi-final loss to South Africa three days ago.

Wales head coach Warren Gatland has made nine changes for his final match in charge before stepping down, including starts for Cardiff Blues wing Owen Lane, Ospreys prop Nicky Smith and Scarlets flanker James Davies.

Halfpenny had concussion issues last season, being sidelined for several weeks and missing a number of games for Wales and his regional team the Scarlets.

The Welsh Rugby Union, meanwhile, said Francis’s shoulder injury would require ongoing assessment.

Lane starts just a week after flying to Japan as an injury replacement, with Hallam Amos taking over from Halfpenny in the number 15 shirt.

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Owen Lane, seen here receiving his cap from the Prince of Wales last week, has gained a starting spot against the All Blacks (David Davies/PA)

There is also an opportunity for centre Owen Watkin, with Hadleigh Parkes dropping to the replacements’ bench after starting all of Wales’s six previous games in the tournament.

Tomos Williams moves into the half-back partnership alongside Rhys Patchell, while a reshaped back row sees flanker Justin Tipuric moving from openside to blindside and Davies packing down alongside Tipuric and Ross Moriarty.

Wing Josh Adams makes a seventh successive start in the tournament and needs one try to break Shane Williams’s Wales World Cup record of six touchdowns.

Gatland’s reign ends after the All Blacks game, concuding a 12-year reign highlighted by Wales winning four Six Nations titles, three Grand Slams and reaching two World Cup semi-finals.

Team: H Amos (Cardiff Blues); O Lane (Cardiff Blues), J Davies (Scarlets), O Watkin (Ospreys), J Adams (Cardiff Blues); R Patchell (Scarlets), T Williams (Cardiff Blues); N Smith (Ospreys), K Owens (Scarlets), D Lewis (Cardiff Blues), A Beard (Ospreys), A W Jones (Ospreys, capt), J Tipuric (Ospreys), J Davies (Scarlets), R Moriarty (Dragons).

Replacements: E Dee (Dragons), R Carre (Saracens), W Jones (Scarlets), J Ball (Scarlets), A Shingler (Scarlets), G Davies (Scarlets), D Biggar (Northampton), H Parkes (Scarlets).

PA

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