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Rugby Autumn Internationals: Wales get a fresh start from recent troubles as they take on Fiji

As soon as Wales plugs a hole this fall, another dizzying torrent seems to appear, so Sunday’s Fiji game is a chance for their patched side to thrive.

Against the All Blacks it was their alarmingly leaky defense, and hanging lineouts, and once they solved that against South Africa, the Wales scrum was shattered.

In the midst of that, a host of injuries, particularly for stalwarts Alun Wyn Jones and Ken Owens, and a Covid case for Uilisi Halaholo, plus two invaders from the pitch that hit the Principality Stadium turf, and Wales have navigated in rough waters on and off the field. .

Ellis Jenkins will be the captain of Wales in his second test since returning from a terrible knee injury

Ellis Jenkins will be the captain of Wales in his second test since returning from a terrible knee injury

Alex Cuthbert will play in his first Welsh Test since 2017 against Fiji on Sunday

Alex Cuthbert will play in his first Welsh Test since 2017 against Fiji on Sunday

Alex Cuthbert will play in his first Welsh Test since 2017 against Fiji on Sunday

Today, then, can be a new beginning from all that. It will be for many on the team: stories of redemption, progress and intrigue across the field.

On the right wing is Alex Cuthbert, playing his first test since Georgia in 2017, after four years in exile in England and more recent injuries.

Behind him is Liam Williams, starting again after appendix problems, and inside is Josh Adams, deployed in a new outside center position.

In the back row, Thomas Young is sold out for the first time at the Principality Stadium, 20 years after being his father Dai’s mascot in the 50th props cap, another returning from exile.

Thomas Young will make his first appearance at the Principality Stadium after being a mascot 20 years ago to see his father Dai's 50th call-up.

Thomas Young will make his first appearance at the Principality Stadium after being a mascot 20 years ago to see his father Dai's 50th call-up.

Thomas Young will make his first appearance at the Principality Stadium after being a mascot 20 years ago to see his father Dai’s 50th call-up.

And, perhaps a sign of the evolution of the new age, Ellis Jenkins is captain in his second comeback test after his horrific knee injury in 2018.

With the huge Christ Tshiunza prepared for his debut from the bench, there are stories everywhere.

Wales should end Sunday with a win, preferably without the heart-stopping drama of the last game head coach Wayne Pivac was involved in between these teams, when he was in the opposing dressing room.

“Coming here in 2005 we were beaten by a drop goal at the last minute,” Pivac recalled of Wales’ 11-10 win thanks to a kick from Nicky Robinson.

‘They are a passionate rugby nation. It was a fantastic experience living in another country. I have memories of winning a Tri Nations there, which is important to the Fijians. When you play against the people of Tonga and Samoa it really matters.

‘It’s like the Six Nations for Wales. I also had the experience of sevens there and winning the World Cup with Fiji was a tremendous experience to see what it meant to the entire nation. They are crazy passionate about their rugby.

Wales are eager to make a show of force after being savagely attacked by South Africa last week.

Wales are eager to make a show of force after being savagely attacked by South Africa last week.

Wales are eager to make a show of force after being savagely attacked by South Africa last week.

“You can’t hide from photos,” Wales coach Wayne Pivac said of South Africa’s defeat.

‘Rugby and religion are the two big Rs. They are very similar to us in Wales and New Zealand to be honest. Sevens was the number one sport followed by 15 and they will come on Sunday and enjoy the opportunity to play in front of a large crowd.

I know you will be looking forward to it. They will if the likes of Viliame Mata, No. 8 Edinburgh, wing Jos Tuisova and scrum half Frank Lomani will be in the song.

But as is too often the case, this is not full-blown Fiji: neither Semi Radradra, the Bristol superstar, nor Levani Botia, the center, not even Vern Cotter, the head coach, has traveled here due to Covid.

“They will have a strong side, there is no doubt about that,” added Pivac.

“Obviously, it’s a shame that Vern can’t come and one or two of the administration staff, but since I’ve been there, Fiji has come a long way.

They are a side where you cannot rest. The download game is second to none. Fijians love the ball in hand and are very skilled.

‘We saw them against the All Blacks with a solid scrum for most of the game and they scored a try at the driving lineout so they’ve come a long way on set pieces.

“Many of their players are familiar to us in the northern hemisphere. We expect a great physical match. ‘ While the result may not be in doubt, it will be a worthy exercise for Wales. They need to fix their scrum first, as defense coach and former mainstay Gethin Jenkins admitted.

“You can’t hide from the photos,” he said of the Springboks attacking up front.

WALES V FIJI TEAMS

WALES: L Williams; Cuthbert, Adams, J Williams; Rees-Zammit; Biggar, Hardy; Carré, Elias, Francis, Rowlands, Beard, Jenkins, Young, Basham.

Bank: Roberts, G Thomas, John, Tshiunza, S Davies, T Williams, Sheedy, Tompkins.

FIJI: Tuicuvu; Tuisova, Nayacalevu, Botitu, Sau; Volavola, Lomani; Ravai Kovekalou, Matavesi, Doge, Ratuniyarawa, Mayanavanua, Tuisue, Kunavula, Mata.

Bank: Togiatama, Mawi, Atalifo, Ratuva, Dakuwaqa, Matawalu, Naqalevu, Tuimaba.

‘It was hard. Every time we went to a scrum we felt like we were losing a penalty or a decision. We are fully aware of this and we need to improve in this area. There is a lot of work behind closed doors ”. But they can also learn valuable lessons for 2023, when Fiji is back in their World Cup group.

“They’re probably missing a few as well, so they’ll probably be stronger in the World Cup, but it would be nice to go out this weekend and leave a score for two years,” Jenkins added.

A loss to the Pacific Islanders is highly unlikely, if that happens the entire Welsh ship could sink quickly, but a resounding victory can at least temporarily turn back the tides that flow against Pivac’s team.

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