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Page last updated at 02:19 GMT, Thursday, 24 June 2010 03:19 UK

Dan Biggar takes Wales fly-half reins for New Zealand

NEW ZEALAND v WALES
Venue: Waikato Stadium, Hamilton Date: Sat, 26 June Kick-off: 0835 BST
Coverage: Live on BBC Radio Wales MW & online, with score updates online


Dan Biggar has made five Wales appearances, three as a replacement
Dan Biggar has made five Wales appearances, three as a replacement

Dan Biggar will start at fly-half for Wales in Saturday's second Test against New Zealand in Hamilton.

British and Irish lions star Stephen Jones, who started last week's 42-9 loss in Dunedin, drops to the bench despite recovering from a thumb injury.

Jonathan Davies replaces injured centre Andrew Bishop in the only other change to Wales' starting XV.

There are three more bench changes with prop Craig Mitchell, wing Will Harries and scrum-half Richie Rees included.

Last week's reserve prop John Yapp went over on his ankle in training and was not considered for the Waikato Stadium clash, with young Scarlets scrum-half Tavis Knoyle - who made his debut last week- the other unlucky player to drop out of the Wales match 22.

Biggar will win his sixth cap when he runs out against the All Blacks and the Ospreys rookie will make just his third start for his country, having got the nod for wins over Canada in May 2009 and against Samoa last November.

The 20-year-old will go toe-to-toe with All Blacks fly-half great Dan Carter, who has shrugged off a calf injury to play the Welsh, is a real master versus pupil clash in Hamilton on Saturday.

Mike Phillips praises 'great' team-mate Dan Biggar

Carter has scored 1,038 international points since making his debut, coincidentally against Wales in Hamilton back in June 2003, and in his 69th New Zealand appearance he will face a young Welsh fly-half who Warren Gatland believes has a big Test future.

"We know he is a kid with a lot of talent, a lot of potential, leadership qualities and tactically he is a very good kicker," said Wales coach Gatland.

"He has had a couple of caps against the minor unions and come off the bench a couple times but now he has a chance to test himself against the All Blacks which is great."

Biggar's emergence as a expert game-manager with a good tactical and kicking head has forced the Ospreys to move James Hook across the midfield to centre to accommodate the young fly-half.

Hook was once seen as the natural heir apparent to Jones as Wales' number 10 but the hugely-talented back has moved behind club and country Biggar in the fly-half pecking order.

Biggar was extremely influential in the Ospreys' Magners League Grand Final triumph over Irish giants Leinster at the end of a successful first full season for the Morriston-born product.

"He had a very good end of season for the Ospreys and played particularly well for the Ospreys in the Magners League Grand Final," said Gatland.

"In Wales there are mixed views about Dan - either people love him or hate him. It is the unfortunate thing that tends to happen with number 10s, particularly in Wales."

Biggar is in for veteran Jones, who won his 90th cap in the loss at the Carisbrook stadium last week, despite the 32-year-old being passed fit after recovering from a thumb injury sustained in the 42-9 first Test defeat.

But Gatland insisted: "It was always part of the plan before we started the tour that Dan would play in one of the Tests here in New Zealand.

"It is important for his own development. Stephen hasn't been able to train this week due his thumb injury but it was always our intention to play Dan and he has trained well."

Bishop was already definitely out with a broken bone in his hand, but fellow centre Jamie Roberts and loose forward Rob McCusker, who made his debut in Dunedin, have recovered from bumps and bruises despite sitting out Wales training on Tuesday.

New Zealand coach Graham Henry has made seven changes as, in the backs, Mils Muliaina returns at full-back after injury with Israel Dagg suffering from concussion, Richard Kahui is at centre and wing Zac Guildford takes over from Joe Rokocoko.

Up front lock Tom Donnelly is back as Anthony Boric has a cheek injury, props Tony Woodcock and Neemia Tialata replace Owen and Ben Franks, while Jerome Kaino will play blindside flanker in place of rookie Victor Vito, a debutant last week.

Whatever Saturday's result, and Wales have never beaten the All Blacks on Kiwi soil and not anywhere for 57 years, Gatland has enjoyed the experience of being back amongst his Kiwi countrymen.

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"This is a magnificent place to tour and we have received a wonderful welcome in Hamilton after being involved in a tough game against New Zealand last week," added Gatland.

"There is a lot of mutual respect amongst the players and the people of New Zealand and Wales and we are two nations who love our rugby.

"But you don't get respect in this country, collectively or individually, unless you perform on the pitch here."


New Zealand: Mils Muliaina (Chiefs); Cory Jane (Hurricanes), Richard Kahui (Chiefs), Benson Stanley (Blues), Zac Guildford (Crusaders); Daniel Carter (Crusaders), Jimmy Cowan (Highlanders); Tony Woodcock (Blues), Keven Mealamu (Blues), Neemia Tialata (Hurricanes), Brad Thorn (Crusaders), Tom Donnelly (Highlanders), Jerome Kaino (Blues), Richie McCaw (capt, Crusaders), Kieran Read (Crusaders).
Replacements: Aled de Malmanche (Chiefs), Owen Franks (Crusaders), Sam Whitelock (Crusaders), Adam Thomson (Highlanders), Piri Weepu (Hurricanes), Aaron Cruden (Hurricanes), Rene Ranger (Blues).

Wales: Lee Byrne (Ospreys); Leigh Halfpenny (Cardiff Blues), Jonathan Davies (Scarlets), Jamie Roberts (Cardiff Blues), Tom Prydie (Ospreys); Dan Biggar (Ospreys), Mike Phillips (Ospreys); Paul James (Ospreys), Matthew Rees (Scarlets), Adam Jones (Ospreys), Bradley Davies (Cardiff Blues), Alun Wyn Jones (Ospreys), Jonathan Thomas (Ospreys), Gavin Thomas (Newport Gwent Dragons), Ryan Jones (capt, Ospreys).
Replacements: Huw Bennett (Ospreys), Craig Mitchell (Ospreys), Deiniol Jones (Cardiff Blues), Rob McCusker (Scarlets), Richie Rees (Cardiff Blues), Stephen Jones (Scarlets), Will Harries (Newport Gwent Dragons).

Referee: Jonathan Kaplan (South Africa).

Assistant referees: Craig Joubert (South Africa), James Leckie (Australia).

Television match official: George Ayoub (Australia).



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see also
'No quick fix' for Wales - Jones
23 Jun 10 |  Welsh
All Blacks star Carter passed fit
24 Jun 10 |  Welsh
Carter in doubt for New Zealand
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Roberts seeks Hamilton redemption
21 Jun 10 |  Welsh
Captain Jones' Wales rally call
19 Jun 10 |  Welsh
Gatland takes positives from loss
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New Zealand 42-9 Wales
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Wales' NZ tour in photos
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