Ian Botham grandson to make Wales rugby debut against Georgia
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CARDIFF - Wayne Pivac said James Botham had a "very big future" after handing the grandson of England cricket legend Ian Botham a Wales rugby debut for Saturday's Autumn Nations Cup match at home to Georgia.
Botham, a former Wales Under-20 international who plays for Cardiff Blues, is the son of Liam Botham - cricket star Botham's only son and himself a former professional cricket, rugby union and rugby league player, who appeared for Cardiff in the 1990s.
The 22-year-old Botham is one of three uncapped players named by Pivac for a behind closed doors match in Llanelli that sees Wales attempting to end a damaging run of six straight defeats.
"We had a good look at James earlier in the campaign," Wales coach Pivac told reporters. "He has impressed, he has done very well.
"In Ross Moriarty and Josh Navidi, we've had a couple of guys who have not been able to partake so far, so James has been in and around the group," the New Zealander added.
"He is a player with a very big future, we believe."
Scrum-half Kieran Hardy and centre Johnny Williams will also earn their first caps in a game Pivac will be desperate to win, with Wales on their worst run since 2012.
Full-back Liam Williams to one side, the Wales backline is an experimental one, with fly-half Callum Sheedy and winger Louis Rees-Zammit both making their first starts for their country.
An experienced front-row of Wyn Jones, Elliot Dee and Samson Lee are named with Jake Ball and Seb Davies packing down in the second-row.
Botham debuts in the back-row alongside captain Justin Tipuric and Aaron Wainwright.
𝗧𝗘𝗔𝗠 𝗡𝗘𝗪𝗦 ⫶ Three uncapped players in starting XV to face @GeorgianRugby 🇬🇪— Welsh Rugby Union 🏉 (@WelshRugbyUnion) November 19, 2020
🆕 ⫶ 𝗕𝗼𝘁𝗵𝗮𝗺 (6), 𝗛𝗮𝗿𝗱𝘆 (9), 𝗪𝗶𝗹𝗹𝗶𝗮𝗺𝘀 (12) ⊕ 𝗟𝗹𝗼𝘆𝗱 (22)⠀
① ⫶ Dechreuad cyntaf i 𝗦𝗵𝗲𝗲𝗱𝘆 a 𝗥𝗲𝗲𝘀-𝗭𝗮𝗺𝗺𝗶𝘁
🏴 #HWFN pic.twitter.com/ayLgrnn6es
Only Liam Williams and Tipuric remain from the starting side hammered 32-9 by Ireland last week, with Tipuric named skipper in the absence of the rested Alun Wyn Jones.
Wales, for all their recent woes, will still be huge favourites to beat a Georgia side thrashed 40-0 by England at Twickenham.
But that has not stopped Pivac from fielding an unfamiliar side.
"Some of it is forced through injury to unavailability, but the plan has always been to utilise the squad," said the former Scarlets coach.
"By the time this game passes, everyone in the squad would have had an opportunity, both in training and a match situation."
But as for the pressure Wales were under as they prepared to confront a Georgia side renowned for a powerful pack, Pivac said: "For us, it's about making sure we look after the ball.
"It is a real focus area for us this week, making sure we keep mistakes to a minimum and be very disciplined."
He added: "The pressure comes internally. We are with each other every day of the week, the players want to improve and a lot of hard work is going in.
"Certainly, we understand that results are what people want to see, and we want to see those ourselves.
"The guys will be out there very determined to not only win the game, but put in a very good performance."
Liam Williams; Johnny McNicholl, Nick Tompkins, Johnny Williams, Louis Rees-Zammit; Callum Sheedy, Kieran Hardy; Aaron Wainwright, Justin Tipuric (capt), James Botham; Seb Davies, Jake Ball; Samson Lee, Elliot Dee, Wyn Jones
Replacements: Sam Parry, Nicky Smith, Leon Brown, Cory Hill, James Davies, Rhys Webb, Ioan Lloyd, Jonah Holmes