Harris ring Wales changes

WALES head coach Iestyn Harris has made eight changes to the side that lost to France in their mid-season Test last June as they head to face Les Bleus again this afternoon (Live on BBC 2, 2.45pm).

The two teams clash head-on in Lens to open the Autumn Tri-Nations Series which is a repeat of the breathtaking 2010 European Cup Final which Wales won 12-11 with the last kick of the game.

Harris will be without leading try-scorer Rhys Williams, of Warrington, who has a knee injury but that is the only downside in the squad as influential Wigan pack members Ben Flower and Gil Dudson bring their experience back to the Welsh forwards after missing the June encounter through injury.

Also, Bradford’s Elliot Kear, who was named Man of the Match in that European Cup Final in Albi that landed Wales a place in the 2011 Four Nations Championships, is also returning after a wrist problem.

Prop Craig Kopczak is another back in action and is keen to get his boots on after the on-going off-field situation with Bradford.

Warrington prop Ben Evans, centre Rob Massam, of Championships side North Wales Crusaders, and Australian duo Neil Budworth, of Mackay Cutters, and half-back Matt Seamark, of Wynnum Manly Seagulls, are all included after missing the last match.

They join a squad of youth and experience, with Salford City Reds’ Jordan James, who made his Wales debut against Australia in 2003, alongside the likes of 18-year-old Rhys Pugsley, a prop who has come along the Welsh conveyor belt pathway from amateur side Newport Titans as a 13-year-old to gain a contract with Super League giants Wigan Warriors this year.

Wales need to win this match for many reasons particularly as it will give them another Test match in November to warm-up for next year’s World Cup, which they are co-hosting, should they, as possible, play England in the Series final at Salford.

Harris said: “We came together a week ago and I am really happy with the way the guys have trained over the period since. We asked a lot of our players when they came in and they have responded very well.

“The 19-man squad is ready to put in a good performance for us and the guys have jumped in with a really good attitude. We took a couple of days to settle into the structures but now they are a unit.

“The systems of our play are coming through nicely in the squad. Everyone selected is available for us – we have no new injuries – so we are happy with that and so we have picked the strongest squad we could for this match.”

The captain for the game to succeed half-back legend Lee Briers, the long-time Welsh skipper who retired from the international scene after the Four Nations but who will be assisting Harris on the coaching front this month, is set to be announced towards the end of the week.

Wales 19-man squad (v France. Lens. Saturday. Kick-off: 3pm (UK time): Elliot Kear (Bradford Bulls), Ben Evans (Warrington Wolves), Mike Channing (London Broncos), Christiaan Roets, Rob Massam, (both North Wales Crusaders), Neil Budworth (Mackay Cutters, Australia), Danny Jones, Craig Moss (both Keighley Cougars), Matt Seamark (Wynnum Manley Seagulls, Australia), David James, Steve Parry, Joe Burke (all South Wales Scorpions), Jordan James (Salford City Reds), Gil Dudson, Ben Flower, Rhodri Lloyd, Rhys Pugsley (all Wigan Warriors), Dan Fleming (Castleford Tigers), Craig Kopczak

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