Preview: Wales v Barbarians

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The Wayne Pivac reign as Wales head coach begins at the Principality Stadium on Saturday with an uncapped game against the Barbarians.

The man he takes over from, Warren Gatland, will coach the Baabaas as he says goodbye to the Cardiff crowd. He leaves Wales after 12 years at the helm and having recently led the side to the Rugby World Cup semi-finals.

Although the game has faced fierce criticism in the week, and rightly so for the weakening of the regions as they continue with Guinness Pro14 action, Pivac will be keen to use the occasion as a chance to test out some live game scenarios ahead of the Six Nations in the New Year.

After four years as Scarlets head coach the New Zealander will know a number of the players well, but will still get to know plenty of faces from other regions, as well as stamping his mark on a team that is used to playing a very different style of rugby to that which he favours.

Unfortunately the Barbarians team is perhaps not as star-studded as he would have liked, with very few players who featured at the Rugby World Cup, and none who started in the Final as Lukhanyo Am and Makazole Mapimpi have left the squad.

In fact, take Campese Ma’afu, Rory Best and Mathieu Basteraud out of the starting XV and the rest of the players average just nine international caps each, with a number yet to make their bows for their countries.

Rory Best Barbarians.jpg

Best, along with his likely replacement Schalk Brits, will be playing their last games before retiring, although there are a few exciting young talents including Shaun Stevenson, Curwin Bosch and Marco van Staden.

Barbarians: Shaun Stevenson (Waikoto Chiefs & Maori All Blacks), Dillyn Leyds (Stormers & South Africa), Mathieu Bastareaud (Lyon & France), Andre Esterhuizen (Natal Sharks & South Africa), Cornal Hendricks (Blue Bulls & South Africa), Curwin Bosch (Natal Sharks & South Africa), Bryn Hall (Crusaders & Maori All Blacks); Campese Maafu (Leicester Tigers & Fiji), Rory Best (capt, Ulster & Ireland), Wiehahn Herbst (Blue Bulls), Luke Jones (Melbourne Rebels & Australia), Tyler Ardron (Waikoto Chiefs & Canada), Pete Samu (ACT Brumbies & Australia), Marco van Staden (Blue Bulls & South Africa), Josh Strauss (Stade Francais & Scotland)

Replacements: Schalk Brits (Blue Bulls & South Africa), Craig Millar (Sunwolves), Hencus van Wyk (Sunwolves), George Biagi (Zebre & Italy), Angus Cottrell (Melbourne Rebels), Jano Vermaak (Stormers & South Africa), Billy Meakes (Melbourne Rebels), Matt Duffie (Auckland Blues & New Zealand)

For his first team selection Pivac has not strayed far from what was expected, with only two of the starting XV having not featured out in Japan.

Johnny McNicholl starts on the wing having recently qualified via the residency rule, and Jarrod Evans gets the nod at fly-half with Dan Biggar, Rhys Patchell and Gareth Anscombe either injured or unavailable.

Elsewhere Adam Beard and Jake Ball team up at second row with Alun Wyn Jones injured, while Aaron Wainwright starts at eight as Ross Moriarty has been unable to train through illness.

Jake Ball Ireland

In the backs Tomos Williams starts at scrum-half with Gareth Davies on the bench, Owen Watkin wears 13 with Jon Davies injured and Leigh Halfpenny returns to fitness at full-back.

On the bench there are recalls for Rob Evans, Leon Brown, Seb Davies and Sam Davies, while Ollie Griffiths could make his first appearance in a red jersey.

Wales: Leigh Halfpenny, Johnny McNicholl, Owen Watkin, Hadleigh Parkes, Josh Adams, Jarrod Evans, Tomas Williams; Wyn Jones, Ken Owens, Dillon Lewis, Jake Ball, Adam Beard, Aaron Shingler, Justin Tipuric (c), Aaron Wainwright

Replacements: Elliot Dee, Rob Evans, Leon Brown, Seb Davies, Ollie Griffiths, Gareth Davies, Sam Davies, Owen Lane

How much Pivac will actually get out of the afternoon against a sub-standard Barbarians side is to be seen, but one thing for certain is that all four regions will struggle without their star players this weekend to allow them to play at the Principality Stadium.

The romanticism of sending Warren Gatland off and welcoming players who played at the World Cup home is great, but there’s no room for stuff like that in professional sport.

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