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Pivac: Pumas ‘perfect opponents’ for his Wales experiment

July 8, 2021 GMT

CARDIFF, Wales (AP) — In the dark days of his rehab last year, confined to home with his parents in lockdown, Owen Lane decided he wasn’t going to change the way he plays.

His attitude paid off when he was picked by Wales to start on the wing against Argentina on Saturday at Principality Stadium.

The test will be his third, more than 20 months after his second.

The solid, pacy Lane made a try-scoring debut for Warren Gatland’s Wales against Ireland in a warmup for the 2019 Rugby World Cup. He made the World Cup late as an injury replacement and started the bronze playoff against New Zealand.

But a torn hamstring just before the 2020 Six Nations then sidelined him for months, and just when he came right, a freak shoulder injury in training kept him out of the Autumn Nations Cup.

“I’d like to think I play in quite a physical way and the way I play is going to lead to a couple of injuries, but I wouldn’t be where I am if I didn’t play that way,” he told walesonline.

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“I’m not going to change the way I play.”

After Lane’s three-week suspension in May for a red card, coach Wayne Pivac decided it’s time to see if the 23-year-old wing still has an international future while the side is minus 13 present and past British and Irish Lions.

“He is like a cat on a hot tin roof,” Pivac said. “With the injuries he has had, he is really looking forward to this and hopefully he will go well.”

After beating Canada 68-12 and debuting five players last weekend, Pivac wanted to keep the new combinations going and retained the same forward pack. He limited his changes to four and no debuts.

Lane replaced Tom Rogers, and Hallam Amos was at fullback for the injured Leigh Halfpenny. Scrumhalf Kieran Hardy swapped places with Tomos Williams, and Jarrod Evans was the reserve flyhalf after recovering from an ankle injury.

“Argentina provide the perfect opponents for us this weekend and are the exact test we want for this group of players,” Pivac said.

“We will be tested up front, and the physicality will be at a level that some of these players have not experienced before, but that will answer a lot of questions for us as we build towards Rugby World Cup 2023.”

Argentina was fortunate to escape from Bucharest last weekend with a win against Romania by 24-17. The Pumas, without the benefit of Super Rugby to prepare, gathered for the first time in seven months and gave a barely competent effort. They were afflicted by sloppy handling, a high penalty count, and a general lack of energy. They wasted a host of scoring chances.

Former Australia coach Michael Cheika has rejoined the Pumas as a technical adviser for the two-test Wales series, and coach Mario Ledesma warned his side to show far more discipline and enthusiasm.

Ledesma has brought in props Nahuel Tetaz Chaparro and Francisco Gomez Kodela, openside flanker Facundo Isa and lock Guido Petti.

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Petti was rested against Romania while Tomas Lavanini started but struggled after having bronchitis. Lavanini was in the reserves and Ledesma has decided to have two locks backing up after also picking Matias Alemanno, recovered from COVID-19.

The back three in the backline was switched up with Santiago Cordero moved to the left wing in place of Juan Imhoff, Santiago Carreras starting on the right, and Juan Cruz Mallia at fullback for Bautista Delguy, who should be fit for the second test.

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Lineups:

Wales: Hallam Amos, Jonah Holmes, Uilisi Halaholo, Jonathan Davies (captain), Owen Lane, Callum Sheedy, Kieran Hardy; Aaron Wainwright, James Botham, Ross Moriarty, Will Rowlands, Ben Carter, Dillon Lewis, Elliot Dee, Nicky Smith. Reserves: Ryan Elias, Gareth Thomas, Leon Brown, Josh Turnbull, Taine Basham, Tomos Williams, Jarrod Evans, Nick Tompkins.

Argentina: Juan Cruz Mallia, Santiago Carreras, Matias Moroni, Jeronimo de la Fuente, Santiago Cordero, Nicolas Sanchez, Tomas Cubelli; Rodrigo Bruni, Facundo Isa, Pablo Matera, Guido Petti, Marcos Kremer, Francisco Gomez Kodela, Julian Montoya (captain). Nahuel Tetaz Chaparro. Reserves: Facundo Bosch, Facundo Gigena, Santiago Medrano, Tomas Lavanini, Matias Alemanno, Gonzalo Bertranou, Domingo Miotti, Santiago Chocobares.

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