Hansen gambles with changes for Tonga

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The Independent Online

Steve Hansen's cunning plan may just do a Baldrick on him. Because although the Welsh coach's decision yesterday to name eight changes for Sunday's game with Tonga may seem perfectly sensible on the face of it, if his reserves fail to sparkle it could prove risky in the extreme.

Every encounter in Pool D looks to be of the "must win" variety for Wales - except, of course, that "can't win" run-out against New Zealand - and many believe the Dragons do not have enough firepower to be taking breathers.

Nevertheless, Hansen is determined to stick to his beliefs. "We've had a plan in place for the first couple of games," he said here yesterday. "We feel if we're going to be successful at the tournament we're going to have to use the whole squad at some stage of it."

So Iestyn Harris finds himself "rested" just as he has displayed all the signs of stirring from his union slumber. At least the Cardiff inside-centre, who did more than any other player to humble Canada in last Sunday's opener, will be on the bench should it all start to go wrong against the Pacific Islanders. Harris will then, no doubt, come back into the line-up for Saturday week's game with Italy, which for a long time has had all the hallmarks of a "loser-goes-home" showdown.

Trying to ensure that Wales head into that on at least a level footing will be Stephen Jones, who takes over from Ceri Sweeney as No 10 and from Harris as goalkicker. The Llanelli outside-half has not played since the humiliation against an England second string in Cardiff two months ago, where, on his own admission, he did not perform to his usual impeccable standards. "Nobody's got a divine right to play for their country," he said. "If you look at my last game [against England] it's fair to say that I didn't perform."

Rhys Williams comes in at full-back, Mark Taylor replaces Harris and Tom Shanklin fills in on the wing in place of Gareth Thomas.

In the pack, Alix Popham is tried out at No 8, while the captain, Colin Charvis, moves to the open-side to make way. Iestyn Thomas, Mefin Davies and Robert Sidoli are also asked to front up to a Tongan pack who will be playing for their lives after Wednesday's weak submission to the Italians. "It's win at all costs for Tonga," Hansen said. "Because if they don't get some points their tournament's over."

Someone for whom it is already over is Andrew Mower, the Scotland flanker who suffered a knee injury in training on Wednesday. Glasgow's Cameron Mather, who has played four Tests since making his debut in the 1999 World Cup, is expected to arrive in Australia tomorrow to replace him.

The Scotland coach, Ian McGeechan, said Donnie Macfadyen, Andrew Dall and Allister Hogg were all considered but he opted for the New Zealand-born Mather. The 31-year-old, who last played for Scotland in 2000, is one of the least experienced players in the squad, with only Nikki Walker (three), Dougie Hall (one) and Simon Danielli holding fewer caps.

WALES (v Tonga, Sunday): R Williams; M Jones, M Taylor, S Parker, T Shanklin; S Jones, G Cooper; I Thomas, M Davies, G Jenkins, G Llewellyn, R Sidoli, D Jones, C Charvis (capt), A Popham. Replacements: H Bennett, A Jones, C Wyatt, M Williams, D Peel, I Harris, G Evans.

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