The likely Wales team to face Australia now after Gatland makes big calls

Plumtree is in line to start against the Wallabies in Sydney
-Credit: (Image: Chris Fairweather/Huw Evans Agency)

Warren Gatland has named his squad to tour Australia next month, making some big calls amid a raft of exits, injury setbacks and surprising call-ups.

The headlines from today's announcement include Dewi Lake being named captain ahead of Dafydd Jenkins, a trio of front row players being ruled out through injury and three uncapped talents being included in the final 34-man squad.

Cardiff hooker Efan Daniel has been called up after front rows Keiron Assiratti, Elliot Dee and Henry Thomas were left out due to injury. Gloucester's Josh Hathaway and Bath winger Regan Grace are also on the plane and in line to win their first caps in Australia, but Ospreys star James Ratti has been left at home.

READ MORE: Warren Gatland explains everything that happened before Wales star walked out on him

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With the squad now announced, attention turns to Wales' first showdown with the Wallabies in Sydney on July 6. They will meet again in Melbourne exactly a week later, before rounding off their tour by taking on the Queensland Reds in Brisbane on July 19.

After starting the summer with a 41-13 defeat to the Springboks - although one that admittedly was not as painful as initially feared - Wales and Gatland have some big decisions to make if they are to end their winless run of seven Tests in a row.

Following last year's disastrous World Cup campaign, Australia would have looked like easy targets against which to get that all important Welsh victory, but will likely be much improved under new head coach Joe Schmidt. Their squad isn't packed with superstars like the Springboks' but they will still prove a tricky test against Gatland's men with one of the world's most highly regarded coaches at the helm.

With that in mind and based on what we saw at Twickenham on Saturday, are we set to see a similar line up to the one that faced South Africa when Wales take on the Wallabies in less than a fortnight's time?

After making a powerful return against the Springboks, it is no surprise to see Lake awarded the captaincy for the tour. He was outstanding at the weekend, winning his collisions and making the most carries of anyone in a red jersey, while he performed well at the lineout too.

Despite the results, young Jenkins did a fine job as skipper during the Six Nations but Lake seems to have a galvanising effect on his team-mates. In the absence of the injured Jac Morgan, with whom he shared leadership duties at last year's World Cup, the Ospreys hooker is the right choice as captain.

He will start in Sydney and is likely to be joined in the front row by Gareth Thomas and Dillon Lewis. The latter is believed to currently be carrying a knock but amid a raft of front row exits - from Sam Parry's shock departure to the withdrawals of Assiratti, Dee and Thomas - that is by the far the strongest lineup Wales can go with at the front of the pack.

Jenkins will start in the second row but who joins him is another matter. Gatland may opt for the experienced Cory Hill, but is perhaps more likely to choose Ben Carter for the starting jersey.

The Dragons man gave a fine account of himself on Saturday, delivering his best performance in a Wales jersey as he ended the game as the top tackler on the field and earned the praise of Gatland. There are fewer tougher challenges in rugby than going head-to-head with Eben Etzebeth but Carter rose to the challenge and showed he is capable of cutting it at this level.

In the back row, Tommy Reffell - outstanding during the Six Nations - will fill in for the injured Morgan, despite the efforts of James Botham against the Springboks. Aaron Wainwright will line up at eight and while Gatland has had a decision to make at six, he has had it largely made for him by Taine Plumtree with the Scarlets man showcasing his physical edge and tackling threat at the weekend.

Onto the backs and expect to see the experienced Gareth Davies getting the nod at scrum-half, with Sam Costelow partnering him as the Welsh management look for the fly-half to get a run of games under his belt. Meanwhile, Rio Dyer and Liam Williams - who showed his class with a fine return at Twickenham - will line up on the wings with the likes of uncapped duo Regan Grace and Josh Hathaway perhaps making cameos from the bench over the course of the tour.

It is in midfield where the big questions lie and there has been plenty of conversations since the end of the Six Nations about where to play Mason Grady. He turned out at 12 against the Springboks, with ex-Cardiff coach Richie Rees believing it was the wrong call to start him there.

But as Jamie Roberts later argued, he is a gifted athlete and one who can get Wales playing on the front foot with his pace and power, even if defensively there is still plenty of room for improvement. Expect to see Gatland stick with his decision to play him at inside centre, with the calming presence of Owen Watkin starting outside him in Sydney.

Likely Wales side to face Australia: Cameron Winnett; Liam Williams, Owen Watkin, Mason Grady, Rio Dyer; Sam Costelow, Gareth Davies; Gareth Thomas, Dewi Lake (captain), Dillon Lewis, Ben Carter, Dafydd Jenkins, Taine Plumtree, Tommy Reffell, Aaron Wainwright