Wales v Argentina: Sam Warburton pleased to see Cory Allen 'chucked in at the deep end'
Cardiff Blues man will make his debut against Argentina at outside centre due to an injury to Jonathan Davies
Friday 15 November 2013
Already 1,107 players have pulled on the red jersey of Wales. On Saturday, Cory Allen will add to that number after being called up for his debut against Argentina in Cardiff.
Warren Gatland will start the 20-year-old, who at the beginning of the season was not even in the Cardiff Blues first team, at outside centre with Jonathan Davies injured.
In other forced changes after the 24-15 defeat to South Africa Justin Tipuric replaces the injured Dan Lydiate in the back row, with Sam Warburton moving to blindside flanker to make space, while Rhodri Jones starts at prop with Adam Jones also sidelined.
Dan Biggar, who started all five of Wales' Six Nations games this year, is back at No 10 instead of Rhys Priestland as Wales opt for a rotational policy with their fly-halves, with James Hook set to play the next game against Tonga.
It is no shock to see Gethin Jenkins' name on the team sheet as he becomes only the fourth Welshman in history to win his 100th cap. But Allen's inclusion is the big surprise. He made his name initially in both the Wales Under-20 side that beat New Zealand and in Wales' surprise passage to the Hong Kong Sevens final.
But Allen has played just 10 games in regional rugby, which makes Gatland's call a gamble, although his Blues team-mate, the Wales captain Sam Warburton, is confident he will slot in with ease.
"He's the type of guy that you chuck in the deep end and he will handle it," said Warburton. "He'll enjoy the stage on Saturday. I expect some really good things."
There was a partial admission from Gatland that he was taking a risk with the selection and, when asked how good Allen could be, he admitted: "I'm not sure yet. I've seen him play in Hong Kong last year and seen how good he is in sevens. We're kind of playing him out of position. He's big and rangy and he goes in there with an opportunity to impress. We felt it was a chance for a young guy to develop at centre."
Scrum-half Mike Phillips aside, the selections give Wales a back line with an average age of just 22, an area Argentina will be looking to exploit. "Our biggest challenge for Saturday is that we've got a few youngsters out there," Gatland acknowledged. "Silence is sometimes the killer on the rugby field. The thing about the modern game is it's about having that whole range of skills."
For Allen, his emergence has been meteoric. Seen traditionally as a No 12, he has, however, played at 13 for all of his matches for Wales Under-20s this year, and half of his games for the Blues. "It's not unfamiliar to me and I do enjoy it," he said. "With the team picked, I think we'll look to play a bit. Maybe my sevens can come into it and I can exploit that space."
Wales team L Halfpenny (Blues), G North (Northampton), C Allen (Blues), S Williams (Scarlets), L Williams (Scarlets), D Biggar (Ospreys), M Phillips (Unattached), G Jenkins (Blues), R Hibbard (Ospreys), R Jones (Scarlets), B Davies (Blues), A W Jones (Ospreys), S Warburton (capt, Blues), J Tipuric (Ospreys), T Faletau (Dragons). Replacements K Owens (Scarlets), P James (Bath), S Lee (Scarlets), L Charteris (Perpignan), R Jones (Ospreys), L Williams (Blues), J Hook (Perpignan), A Beck (Ospreys).
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