CARDIFF, Wales (AP) — Tonga's chances of claiming a first win over Wales improved significantly on Tuesday when the Six Nations champions selected a second-string lineup for their autumn test at Millennium Stadium on Friday.
The Welsh made 11 changes to the side that thrashed Argentina 40-6 on Saturday, leaving no more than three first-choice players — fullback Leigh Halfpenny, winger George North and lock Ian Evans — as starters.
"It's a great opportunity for these guys to show us exactly how they cope with the international game," said Wales coach Warren Gatland, who will be taking charge of his 100th international match. Hallam Amos, 19, will make his debut on the wing, Owen Williams wins only his third cap in an injury-plagued midfield and No. 8 Ryan Jones returns to captain the team for a record-extending 33rd time, in the absence of Sam Warburton.
James Hook, a fans' favorite in Wales, gets a chance to impress at flyhalf with Dan Biggar rested and Rhys Priestland on the bench. Evans is back from injury for his first game this month. After opening the autumn series with a 24-15 loss to South Africa, Wales beat Argentina for a first win in November since 2009.
The Welsh have won all six of their games against Tonga, the most recent being a 27-20 victory at the 2003 World Cup in Australia. However, they have encountered problems against Pacific islanders in recent years, losing to Fiji in the 2007 World Cup and then drawing at home in 2010, and also losing four of their nine meetings with Samoa.
"Tonga are a typical south sea island side and will be physical, powerful and won't take a backwards step," Gatland said. "We pride ourselves on matching other side's physicality and we will have to do that on Friday."
Wales: Leigh Halfpenny, George North, Owen Williams, Ashley Beck, Hallam Amos, James Hook, Lloyd Williams; Ryan Jones (captain), Justin Tipuric, Andrew Coombs, Ian Evans, Luke Charteris, Rhodri Jones, Ken Owens, Paul James. Reserves: Emyr Phillips, Ryan Bevington, Samson Lee, Dan Lydiate, Sam Warburton, Rhodri Williams, Rhys Priestland, Jordan Williams.