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Page last updated at 06:34 GMT, Wednesday, 5 November 2008

Cooper gets Wales nod over Peel

Venue: Millennium Stadium Date: Saturday, 8 November Kick-off: 1430 GMT Coverage: Live on BBC One, Radio Wales, BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra & online. Highlights on Scrum V, BBC Two (Sunday, 1800 GMT). Live text commentary on BBC Sport website

Interview: Warren Gatland

Gareth Cooper is the shock choice at scrum-half for Wales' opening autumn Test against South Africa on Saturday.

The 29-year-old impressed against the world champions on the summer tour, but fit-again Sale and Lions scrum-half Dwayne Peel was expected to start.

Blues pair Leigh Halfpenny, 19, and Andy Powell, 27, will win first caps.

Jamie Roberts starts alongside Gavin Henson in the centres, Stephen Jones is at fly-half, Matthew Rees plays at hooker and Ian Evans is fit at lock.

Tight-head prop Adam Jones is set for his 50th cap, while Roberts will be winning his fourth cap in a fourth different position, having already played at wing, full-back and inside centre for his country.


Huw Bennett was favourite to start at hooker, but he was injured in the Ospreys' defeat at London Irish on Saturday, so he joins Scarlets wing Mark Jones (knee) on the sidelines.

Henson sat out Tuesday afternoon's training session because of a stiff achilles tendon after playing at the weekend, but is expected to be fine for the South Africa game.

"Both of the debutants have been form players so far this season," said Wales coach Warren Gatland, who has moved his captain Ryan Jones to blind-side flanker to accommodate Powell at eight.

"So they now get a chance to test themselves against the very best team in the world.

Habana wants fireworks with Williams

"At 19 years old our message to Leigh has been to just go out there and enjoy himself, he needs to not worry about his opposite number, but just relax and play without fear and enjoy the experience.

"Andy Powell is a little different he has been around for a while and is an experienced head despite his lack of international caps, but he is most definitely in form.

"We will be looking to get the ball in his hands and see him run.

"Ryan Jones is adept on either side of the scrum, but to switch our captain does tell you a little bit about what we think of Andy.

"At scrum-half Gareth Cooper is the man in possession of the shirt after doing well for us, particularly in the second Test on tour this summer and he has been rewarded.

Halfpenny's 'dream come true'

"In the centres Jamie Roberts and Gavin Henson form a partnership that any side would be proud of, but perhaps the most important point about this selection is the bench.

"We have plenty of talent and experience available to us to come on and change things if necessary, which was something that worked for us in the Six Nations last season.

"The likes of Ian Gough, Duncan Jones, Richard Hibbard, Dafydd Jones, Dwayne Peel, James Hook and Tom Shanklin are all able to offer up something different when required."

Gatland included five uncapped players in his initial squad.

Eifion Roberts (Sale), Dan Biggar (Ospreys), Martin Roberts (Scarlets), Powell and Halfpenny were called up.

Jones keen to justify fly-half selection

Preparations were disrupted by the row between the Welsh Rugby Union and the four Welsh regions over player release.

The WRU won a High Court order to ensure that selected players were made available for three days of Wales training at the start of last week.

Wales' testing autumn series at Cardiff's Millennium Stadium sees the Springboks game followed by the visits of Canada, New Zealand and Australia on successive weekends.

Wales: Lee Byrne (Ospreys); Leigh Halfpenny (Cardiff Blues), Jamie Roberts (Cardiff Blues), Gavin Henson (Ospreys), Shane Williams (Ospreys); Stephen Jones (Scarlets), Gareth Cooper (Gloucester); Gethin Jenkins (Cardiff Blues), Matthew Rees (Scarlets), Adam Jones (Ospreys), Alun Wyn Jones (Ospreys), Ian Evans (Ospreys), Ryan Jones (Ospreys, capt), Martyn Williams (Cardiff Blues), Andy Powell (Cardiff Blues).
Replacements: Richard Hibbard (Ospreys), Duncan Jones (Ospreys), Ian Gough (Ospreys), Dafydd Jones (Scarlets), Dwayne Peel (Sale Sharks), James Hook (Ospreys), Tom Shanklin (Cardiff Blues).

South Africa team: Conrad Jantjes; JP Pietersen, Adrian Jacobs; Jean de Villiers, Bryan Habana, Ruan Pienaar, Fourie du Preez; Tendai Mtawarira, Bismarck du Plessis, John Smit (capt), Bakkies Botha, Victor Matfield, Schalk Burger, Juan Smith, Pierre Spies.
Replacements: Brian Mujati, Gurthrö Steenkamp, Andries Bekker, Ryan Kankowski, Ricky Januarie, Frans Steyn, Jaque Fourie.

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see also
Wales' rugby fixtures
26 Jun 07 |  Welsh
Wales rugby results archive
15 Oct 03 |  Welsh
Mighty Boks: South African rugby
01 Oct 08 |  Rugby Union
BBC Sport Wales coverage
28 Oct 08 |  Wales
Coming up next on Scrum V...
27 Oct 08 |  Welsh

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