Wales have recalled former captain Alun Wyn Jones to the starting XV for their Autumn Nations finale against Australia on Saturday, with Joe Hawkins set to make his Test debut.
The Welsh are desperate to finish their November campaign on a high following a humiliating 13-12 loss at home to Georgia last weekend — a defeat that piled the pressure on coach Wayne Pivac.
Jones, the world record cap-holder, replaces Ben Carter to partner Adam Beard in the second row, with the 37-year-old veteran lock making his first international start since last season’s Six Nations.
Ospreys centre Hawkins, 20, has come in for Owen Watkin, who suffered a knee injury against Georgia.
Full-back Leigh Halfpenny returns following a 16-month injury absence from Wales duty, Gareth Anscombe starts at fly-half and wing Rio Dyer is back instead of the benched Josh Adams.
New Zealander coach Pivac has also altered his pack, with No 8 Taulupe Faletau selected for his 100th Wales and British and Irish Lions Test match appearance.
Wales are bidding for a fourth successive win over the Wallabies, but they have lost eight of their 11 Tests so far this year.
And with Saturday’s match falling outside World Rugby’s international window, Wales will be without Gloucester flyer Louis Rees-Zammit, Saracens centre Nick Tompkins and Exeter forward Christ Tshiunza as their English clubs are not obliged to release them for this fixture.
Pivac has presided over 19 defeats in 33 Tests since succeeding compatriot Warren Gatland as head coach following a 2019 World Cup in Japan where Wales reached the semi-finals.
Even if Wales lose again on Saturday, the Welsh Rugby Union might still baulk at replacing former Scarlets boss Pivac just 10 months out from next year’s World Cup in France.
But he is in an uncomfortable spotlight after the Georgia defeat, with Pivac saying Thursday as he announced his team: “The whole squad is extremely disappointed with last week’s performance.
“It’s not the result that anybody wanted.”
He added: “We know what went wrong…Certainly it’s a side we’ve selected to get a result which we’re desperately seeking.”
Australia, also coached by a New Zealander in Dave Rennie, have problems of their own, with a raft of injuries leading the Wallabies to make seven changes following a 13-10 loss to Ireland in Dublin last weekend.
Defeat on Saturday would condemn Australia to a 10th loss in 14 matches in 2022 and their worst calendar year since 1958, although this month’s reverses against France and Italy were both a matter of a single point.
“What we do know about Australia is that they’re a dangerous side whatever team they put out,” said Pivac.
Leigh Halfpenny; Alex Cuthbert, George North, Joe Hawkins, Rio Dyer; Gareth Anscombe, Tomos Williams; Taulupe Faletau, Justin Tipuric (capt), Jac Morgan; Alun Wyn Jones, Adam Beard; Dillon Lewis, Ken Owens, Gareth Thomas
Replacements: Ryan Elias, Rhodri Jones, Tomas Francis, Ben Carter, Josh Macleod, Kieran Hardy, Rhys Priestland, Josh Adams
Coach: Wayne Pivac (NZL)