independent

Sunday 20 April 2014

'Phenomenal' Cuthbert returns to boost Wales

Wales' Alex Cuthbert
Wales' Alex Cuthbert

Alex Cuthbert will return to Test rugby today accompanied by a ringing endorsement from Wales assistant coach Rob Howley.

Lions wing Cuthbert has not played since suffering a hairline fracture of his ankle during Cardiff Blues' victory over Toulon six weeks ago, missing Wales' autumn appointments with South Africa, Argentina and Tonga.

But after recovering ahead of schedule, he has been selected for the autumn series finale against Australia.

"It is great to have Alex back," said Howley, of a player who has scored nine tries in 18 Wales Tests, including match-winning touchdowns during Six Nations title-clinchers against France and England in the past two seasons.

"He is probably one of the players we have missed a lot in terms of firepower. We spoke about the England game last season and about wingers who are winners and make a difference. I am not sure many wingers in world rugby would have finished the two tries he scored that day.

"His work-rate on and off the ball is phenomenal."

The Lions' 2-1 Test series triumph against Australia – Cuthbert scored a try in the first Test – was their first for 16 years, with 11 of Wales' starting line-up this weekend featuring in a squad coached by Wales boss Warren Gatland.

Wales, though, have found it a much tougher business beating the Wallabies, losing eight Tests in a row against opponents who will be a 2015 World Cup pool rival.

Wales captain Sam Warburton, who skippered the Lions in Australia, said: "The Lions has no bearing with any unfinished business. The main aim is to put the Welsh record (against Australia) in a better state."

Wales – L Halfpenny; A Cuthbert, O Williams, S Williams, G North; D Biggar, M Phillips; G Jenkins, R Hibbard, Rhodri Jones; A-W Jones, I Evans; D Lydiate, S Warburton, T Faletau. Reps: K Owens, R Bevington, S Lee, Ryan Jones, J Tipuric, R Williams, R Priestland, L Williams.

Australia – I Folau; J Tomane, A Ashley-Cooper, C Leali'ifano, N Cummins; Q Cooper, W Genia; J Slipper, S Moore, S Kepu; R Simmons, J Horwill; S Fardy, M Hooper, B Mowen.

Reps: T Polota-Nau, B Robinson, B Alexander, K Douglas, D Dennis, N White, M Harris, B Foley,

REF – W Barnes (England)

Wales v Australia,

Live, BBC2, 5.0

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