Sam Warburton has been dropped for Walesâ€™ match against Samoa on Friday night. The Ospreyâ€™s Justin Tipuric will take his place at openside flanker, while Ryan Jones returns to the side a blinside flanker and takes over the captaincy from Warburton who starts on the bench.
Warburton is one of eight changes from the side that lost poorly to Argentina last week, with Alun Wyn Jones, Josh Turnbull and Matthew Rees ruled out through injury, and Gethin Jenkins, Tavis Knoyle, Rhys Priestland and Scott Williams join Warburton on the bench.
Jamie Roberts does remain in the side though, after he passed a fitness test after a knock last week. He is joined in the centres by Ashley Beck, for the benched Williams, while Dan Biggar and Mike Phillips start at half back after missing out last week.
In the front row, Paul James and Richard Hibbard come in for Jenkins and Rees as interim coach Robert Howley makes a clear statement of change following last weekâ€™s dismal performance.
It is the dropping of Warburton though that raises most eyebrows; the Cardiff flanker has been seen as untouchable by many and had been touted as a potential Lions captain this summer.
He has not been at his best so far this season though while Tipuric has been in quite outstanding form for the Ospreys. It had been thought that Warburton may be moved to 6 to accommodate Tipuric but after a poor performance last week, Howley has chosen to remove him altogether.
Officially Warburton is being rested, but it is hard to see it as anything other than a dropping, though Howley did say that with a short turnaround change was necessary:
“With a short six day turnaround it was important for us to freshen things up and also make use of the competition for places we have within this squad, something which has been a key ingredient for the success of the squad over the last 18 months.”
Scotland meanwhile have also made a change at seven, with Kelly Brown switching there from Number 8 in place of the injured Ross Rennie. David Denton comes in from the bench to play at 8, while John Barclay comes onto the bench as a replacement back row.
The only other change for Scotland against South Africa sees Euan Murray come back in at tighthead for Geoff Cross after missing Sundayâ€™s game against New Zealand for religious reasons.
On the bench Allan Jacobsen steps down following Murrayâ€™s elevation to the starting fifteen while Peter Murchie replaces Max Evans and Dougie Hall steps in for Scott Lawson.
Speaking of the two additions to the starting side Head Coach Andy Robinson said:
“I was pleased with Euan’s contribution both at scrummage and in open play during the summer tour, while Denton’s aggressive carrying is something that really gets the crowd going.”
Wales team to face Samoa:
15. Leigh Halfpenny (Cardiff Blues), 14. Alex Cuthbert (Cardiff Blues), 13. Ashley Beck (Ospreys), 12. Jamie Roberts (Cardiff Blues), 11. George North (Scarlets), 10. Dan Biggar (Ospreys), 9. Mike Phillips (Bayonne).
1. Paul James (Bath), 2. Richard Hibbard (Ospreys), 3. Aaron Jarvis (Ospreys), 4. Bradley Davies (Cardiff Blues), 5. Ian Evans (Ospreys), 6. Ryan Jones (Ospreys, Captain), 7. Justin Tipuric (Ospreys), 8. Toby Faletau (Newport Gwent Dragons).
16. Ken Owens (Scarlets), 17. Gethin Jenkins (Toulon), 18. Scott Andrews (Cardiff Blues), 19. Luke Charteris (Perpignan), 20. Sam Warburton (Cardiff Blues), 21. Tavis Knoyle (Scarlets), 22. Rhys Priestland (Scarlets), 23. Scott Williams (Scarlets).
Scotland team to face South Africa:
15. Stuart Hogg, 14. Sean Lamont, 13. Nick De Luca, 12. Matt Scott, 11. Tim Visser, 10. Greig Laidlaw, 9. Mike Blair.
1.Ryan Grant, 2. Ross Ford, 3. Euan Murray, 4. Richie Gray, 5. Jim Hamilton, 6. Alasdair Strokosch, 7. Kelly Brown (Captan), 8. David Denton
16. Dougie Hall, 17. Kyle Traynor, 18. Geoff Cross, 19. Alastair Kellock, 20. John Barclay, 21. Henry Pyrgos, 22. Ruaridh Jackson, 23. Peter Murchie.