British & Irish Lions lock Alun Wyn Jones returns to the Wales starting line-up for the first of their two Tests against the world game’s top ranked side New Zealand in Dunedin on Saturday.
Jones breaks up the Cardiff Blues second row partnership as he replaces Deiniol Jones to pack down alongside Bradley Davies in one of three changes from the side that went down 34-31 to world champions South Africaat the Millennium Stadium on 5 June.
Andrew Bishop comes into the midfield to take over from James Hook, who has stayed at home to have an operation, while Dragons breakaway Gavin Thomas is chosen in the back row in place of the injured Sam Warburton.
On the bench, Scarlets scrum-half Tavis Knoyle is in line to make his international debut if required and he is joined by Ospreys fly-half Dan Biggar and fellow Scarlet Jonathan Davies in providing cover for the back line.
“We are playing one of the best sides in the world at the moment on home soil and they don’t come much bigger than this,” said Walescoach Warren Gatland.
“But we are determined and there is a quiet self-belief creeping through the squad at the moment which makes me feel we are capable of producing a performance to be proud of against the All Blacks.
“Andrew Bishop has been one of the form centres in Walesthis year and after helping the Ospreys lift the Magners League title has been something of an unsung hero in their team.
“Up front, Gavin Thomas is an experienced flanker who knows all about what it takes to perform at international level. He and Alun Wyn have both impressed in training and deserve their chance this weekend.
“Tavis Knoyle is another player to have impressed and, as a firm believer that ‘if you are good enough, you are old enough’, I know he won’t let anyone down if we need him on Saturday.
WALES: Lee Byrne (Ospreys); Leigh Halfpenny (Blues), Andrew Bishop (Ospreys), Jamie Roberts (Blues), Tom Prydie (Ospreys); Stephen Jones (Scarlets), Mike Phillips (Ospreys); Paul James (Ospreys), Matthew Rees (Scarlets), Adam Jones (Ospreys), Bradley Davies (Blues), Alun Wyn Jones (Ospreys), Jonathan Thomas (Ospreys), Gavin Thomas (Dragons), Ryan Jones (Ospreys, captain).
Replacements: Huw Bennett (Ospreys), John Yapp (Blues), Deiniol Jones (Blues), Rob McCusker (Scarlets), Tavis Knoyle (Scarlets), Dan Biggar (Ospreys), Jonathan Davies (Scarlets)