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Autumn internationals, Sport

Scarlets starlet George North will make his Wales debut against South Africa

George North, Wales, South Africa, Scarlets, rugby union

George North has made just eight appearance for the Scarlets.

Teenage wing George North will make his Wales debut in Saturday’s clash against world champions South Africa at the Millennium Stadium.

The 18-year-old Scarlets prospect, replaces Will Harries as one of three changes following last weekend’s 25-16 loss to Australia.

Full-back Lee Byrne returns after recovering from a broken bone in his hand, which means James Hook move back into midfield, where he partners Tom Shanklin.

One enforced switch up-front sees flanker Martyn Williams win a 97th cap as replacement for his Cardiff Blues colleague Sam Warburton, who is sidelined with calf muscle trouble.

Watch an interview with Tom Shanklin at ITV.com/Wales

But there are two notable forward additions to the replacements’ bench in fit-again Ryan Jones, who will cover the second-row positions, and Wasps number eight Andy Powell.

Powell has not played for Wales since the infamous golf buggy episode last season saw him kicked out of the Wales squad. He was recalled to tour New Zealand in the summer, but injury ruled him out.

North’s selection is the headline act though, coming just seven months after Wales coach Warren Gatland capped another teenage wing in the Ospreys’ Tom Prydie.

On North’s selection, Gatland said: “There is no pressure on him. He just needs to go out and enjoy the experience of winning his first cap.

“We know this is a bold selection, but we have always tried to look at the bigger picture, and George today is the bigger picture.

“At 6ft 4in and 16 stone 7 lbs, he gives us quite a canvass to work with.”

Wales’ forwards dominated against Australia, but the home side could not convert that supremacy into a win, and they now face a South African challenge that has seen the Springboks win the last 11 Tests between the countries.

Gatland added: “With Lee Byrne back at full-back and James Hook hopefully with the ball in his hands more often at centre, we have plenty of experience and guile around in our back-line, and we are simply looking for the same again up-front.

“We were happy with aspects of our performance against Australia, but you can’t work on everything in just a two-week build-up, and we have been able to introduce some new aspects this week.

“The coaches have told the players they have a licence to be creative, to be confident with ball in hand.”

WALES: 15 Lee Byrne; 14 George North, 13 Tom Shanklin, 12 James Hook, 11 Shane Williams; 10 Stephen Jones, 9 Mike Phillips; Gethin Jenkins, Matthew Rees (C), Adam Jones, Bradley Davies, Alun Wyn Jones, Dan Lydiate, Martyn Williams, Jonathan Thomas

Replacements: 16 Huw Bennett, 17 Paul James, 18 Ryan Jones, 19 Andy Powell, 20 Richie Rees, 21 Andrew Bishop, 22 Chris Czekaj


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