Warren Gatland has faith in Wales rookies

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Wales boss Warren Gatland has backed his international rookies to relish the task that awaits them against Georgia on Saturday.

Flanker Dan Lydiate leads a team that sees him boast almost twice as many caps as his seven fellow forwards combined, while Wales’ front-five features just 29 Test match appearances.

Cardiff Blues lock Seb Davies starts at number eight, and the third member of Wales’ back-row – Great Britain 2016 Olympic sevens silver medallist Sam Cross – has played just three professional games of 15-a-side rugby.

Add into the equation that Georgia have beaten Samoa, Fiji, Tonga, Canada (twice) and America since the 2015 World Cup, while Wales’ recent history shows frequent close battles against Tier Two nations during their autumn campaigns, and it has ingredients to be a fascinating contest.

“We feel this is an opportunity for some of those youngsters in the squad,” Gatland said. “We’ve talked about exposing them at this level. In the past, it has felt like you are kind of in a no-win situation (in Tier Two games).

“You’re thinking about the future and you’re wanting to expose youngsters to that level, but sometimes by doing that you know the performance is going to be rusty, and when the performance is rusty, comes the criticism.

“These guys have been together with us for a few weeks, they’ve trained well, they know what is at stake. I’m expecting these guys to go out and play well. We want to build on the positives of last week (against Australia).

“I think in their last three games, they (Georgia) have got something like 15 scrum penalties, so we know we’re going to have to scrummage well. We’re confident we are able to do that. We want to ask questions of them, play with some tempo, keep the ball on the park, and the ability to play from deep.

“Seb has played in that position (number eight), and we need to make sure over the next couple of years that we find cover for Taulupe Faletau, if he does pick up an injury.

“It’s a great opportunity for Seb to experience international rugby. He’s had time at eight. He’s athletic, has carried well for the Blues, and it’s a great chance for him to go out and impress.”

Referring to Cross, Gatland added: “He’s been involved with the Ospreys all season. People were pretty glowing of his performance against Saracens (in the European Champions Cup last month), and he gives us another option.”

Only Liam Williams remains from the side beaten by Australia – and he moves from wing to full-back – while Cross makes a first Wales start, along with centre Owen Watkin, prop Leon Brown and lock Adam Beard.

Scrum-half Rhys Webb has recovered from knee trouble and is called up, while Scott Williams fills the outside centre position vacated by an injured Jonathan Davies, and experienced campaigners like Lydiate, wing Alex Cuthbert and fly-half Rhys Priestland also feature.