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Jamie Roberts dropped as Wales seek answers after Wallabies rout

Wales star Jamie Roberts has paid the price for a collective defensive performance described as "not good enough" by losing his place to face Argentina on Saturday.

Midfield mainstay Roberts has featured in 84 of Wales' past 109 Tests, starting 82 of those games, including two World Cup campaigns.

But the 30-year-old British and Irish Lions Test centre misses out against the Pumas following a 32-8 drubbing at Australia's hands last weekend, when Wales conceded five tries and suffered their heaviest home defeat since 2006.

Wales' interim head coach Rob Howley has responded by making six changes, calling up wing Liam Williams, centre Jonathan Davies, scrum-half Gareth Davies, prop Tomas Francis, lock Alun Wyn Jones and flanker Sam Warburton, but it is Roberts' omission that has commanded most attention.

Scott Williams - Roberts' midfield partner five days ago - and a fit-again Jonathan Davies form the midfield partnership this time around, with Howley offering a blunt assessment of why midfield selection surgery was required.

"There were a number of defensive errors in our game, and Jamie is defensive captain," said Howley, who is in charge this season while Warren Gatland prepares for next summer's Lions tour to New Zealand.

"So we made the decision that the standard of defence wasn't good enough and we needed a reaction, so we made a change.

"You don't look forward to dropping a player that experienced, but when you have the performance we did in that area, you have to make a change. Jamie understands that.

"In fairness to him, when we met the leadership group on Monday, he was the first player to put his hand up and said he made mistakes, so I expect a positive response if, and when, he is needed off the bench on Saturday.

"He wasn't the only one that made defensive errors, there were a few in that first half against a very potent Australian attack. I am sure we will see a response from Jamie.

"He is an integral part of our squad. For this game, the challenge is for Scott and Jonathan to play the (midfield) combination and to see if they will be selected again.

"I think it's the right team selection to play against Argentina.

"The one thing I have learnt over the last four or five years is when performances aren't up to standard, you have to make those tough decisions.

"When we sat down as a coaching team on Monday night, it was important we reflected on the performance individually and collectively.

"We have never experienced 81 per cent possession against us and only 19 per cent to us. The possession we had in the first half (against Australia) was only two minutes in the opposition half."

Elsewhere in the backs, Liam Williams returns from injury to replace Cardiff Blues wing Alex Cuthbert, while scrum-half Gareth Davies takes over from Rhys Webb, who suffered an ankle injury against Australia, with Howley confirming that Webb will undergo surgery on Friday and also miss further November games against Japan and South Africa.

Up-front, Exeter prop Francis is preferred to Scarlets tighthead Samson Lee, with Jones returning to second-row duties after being unavailable for the Wallabies encounter following the death of his father.

And Warburton teams up in the back-row alongside Justin Tipuric and Ross Moriarty, but he starts at blindside flanker instead of Dan Lydiate, rather than in the more familiar number seven shirt that Tipuric keeps on this occasion, with prop Gethin Jenkins remaining as captain despite Warburton's return to Test action.

Jenkins will become the most capped front-row forward in rugby history, making his 133rd appearance for Wales and the Lions, with fly-half Dan Biggar winning his 50th cap.

Asked for his thinking on the captaincy, Howley added: "In terms of continuity with captaincy and leadership from Gethin, but also from Sam's perspective for him to come back in and focus on himself and his preparation for the game."

Wales have beaten Argentina in four of the countries' past five meetings, but defeat this weekend would make it six Test losses on the bounce against all opponents.


From Belfast Telegraph