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Saturday, 15 December, 2018

Wales may find their cutting edge against Pacific powerhouses

Tonga struggle to pile on points

Sam Davies kicked a winning drop goal against Japan in the autumn
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Sky Sports 1 & BBC Wales, 6.30am Friday

This match is the curtain-raiser for New Zealand's clash with Samoa at Auckland's Eden Park, but for the nine players waiting to make their Wales debuts it's the biggest match of their lives.

Three of those new caps are in the starting line-up, including winger Steffan Evans, top tryscorer in the Pro12, and livewire fly-half Sam Davies, who has made a positive impact in his limited appearances.
They will be key figures as Wales try to cut loose from their perceived weakness of a team struggling for an attacking shape.

Only Italy finished with fewer tries and points than Wales' tally of eight and 102 respectively at the Six Nations and Davies's performances in the autumn had many calling for the Ospreys youngster to be given more of a chance.

The handicap is set at 21 points so Wales will need to find a cutting edge, but they are boosted by experienced names in their backline including Alex Cuthbert and Jamie Roberts, who both scored Test tries for the Lions this time four years ago, while Tonga often struggle for points.

Unlike Pacific rivals Fiji and Samoa, Tonga are much more about power and set-piece than pace and width and they have some hard-hitting players who can make it tough for opponents.

Wales have laboured at times against second-tier opponents – they were 22-point favourites last time they faced Tonga in 2013 and won 17-7, while the tourists narrowly beat and then lost to Japan that summer during the Lions tour.

Wales have enough of an edge to win but may come up short on the handicap and the best value looks to be on the margin market.

Recommendation
Wales to win by 11 to 20 points
1pt 11-4 Coral, Ladbrokes

Sam Davies's performances in the autumn had many calling for the Ospreys youngster to be given more of a chance
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