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Rugby | International Rugby

Sam Warburton © Gallo Images

Warburton back to lead Wales against NZ



Captain Sam Warburton and flyhalf Rhys Priestland were among five changes made by Wales to face New Zealand on Saturday in what looks a miss-match of a meeting between the champions of northern and southern hemisphere rugby.

The Six Nations grand slam winners, reeling after home defeats by Argentina and Samoa made it five losses in a row, have also recalled lock Luke Charteris, hooker Matthew Rees and centre Jonathan Davies.

They face a huge challenge as they attempt to end the world champions' 19-game unbeaten run by beating them for the first time in 25 attempts spanning almost half a century.

New Zealand, held to an 18-18 draw by Australia last month, have returned to winning ways with big wins over Scotland and Italy and will play England at Twickenham after taking on the Welsh at the Millennium Stadium (1715).

Flanker Warburton was rested for last week's defeat by Samoa, playing only the final 10 minutes, and comes back for Justin Tipuric, who moves to the bench, while Rees replaces the injured Dan Biggar in the team named on Tuesday.

Davies returns from a groin injury to reunite his Six Nations grand slam centre partnership with Jamie Roberts and Wales will hope those big names can rediscover their best form in a hurry.

Coach Warren Gatland is back in charge of the Wales team after assistant Rob Howley led them for the Argentina and Samoa games.

"It is an honour to be playing the world champions," Gatland said in a statement.

"Memories of the World Cup and touring New Zealand the previous summer are still fresh in the mind of many of the players and staff...and that makes it all the more special that we have the opportunity to face the best side in the world at the moment.

"This New Zealand team is one of the best sides to have ever played the game and probably the best All Blacks team ever so it will be a privilege to be able to test ourselves against them."

Team: 15-Leigh Halfpenny, 14-Alex Cuthbert, 13-Jonathan Davies, 12-Jamie Roberts, 11-George North, 10-Rhys Priestland, 9-Mike Phillips; 8-Toby Faletau, 7-Sam Warburton, 6-Ryan Jones, 5-Luke Charteris, 4-Bradley Davies, 3-Aaron Jarvis, 2-Matthew Rees, 1-Paul James.

Replacements: 16-Ken Owens, 17-Gethin Jenkins, 18-Scott Andrews, 19-Aaron Shingler, 20-Justin Tipuric, 21-Tavis Knoyle, 22-James Hook, 23-Scott Williams.

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