Wales call on Sir Ian Botham’s grandson James to try to save Australia series

Wales call on Sir Ian Botham’s grandson James to try to save Australia series

Wales will be hoping James Botham can make the same impact in Melbourne that his famous grandfather did 38 years ago in Saturday’s second Test against Australia.

Botham, 26, was drafted into a reshuffled second row after number eight Aaron Wainwright was ruled out with a hamstring injury.

And when he runs into AAMI Park, it will no doubt evoke familiar memories of Sir Ian Botham’s cricket heroics in the 1986 Ashes Test.

Sir Ian Botham set up England’s victory in the 1986 Boxing Day Ashes Test (PA)

Botham’s five wickets in the first innings across the road at the Melbourne Cricket Ground set England up for a successful retention of the Ashes.

Australia collapsed from 108 for three to 141 all out as Botham and Gladstone Small wreaked havoc, and England eventually won by an innings and 14 runs inside three days.

They were 2-0 ahead in the series with just one game remaining, meaning there was no looking back for an Australian side that had been badly beaten.

Cardiff striker Botham, who operates as a full-back flanker, will make his 13th call-up as Wales look to end a run of eight consecutive Test defeats that began at the 2023 World Cup.

Taine Plumtree moves to the back row to replace Wainwright, who will not play any further on the tour after being injured in the closing minutes of last Saturday’s first test.

The group was unchanged from the 25-16 defeat, with mainstay Gareth Thomas recovering from a leg problem to start.

Gloucester winger Josh Hathaway’s hopes of backing up his Test debut with another start in Australia, however, have been dashed by an elbow injury.

With Hathaway out, Liam Williams is out at full-back and Cardiff’s Cameron Winnett returns to make his seventh start in Wales’ last eight Tests.

Wales’ last Test win was against Georgia at the 2023 World Cup (David Davies/PA)

Another defeat against Australia would leave Wales within touching distance of equalling their worst run, which was a sequence of 10 defeats in 2002 and 2003 under New Zealander Steve Hansen.

Wales coach Warren Gatland has just a 30% success rate in his second spell in charge, with 14 defeats since taking over from Wayne Pivac for the 2023 Six Nations.

“We’re looking forward to getting back on the field this weekend in Melbourne,” Gatland said.

“This week, we reviewed our processes, building on what worked well and refining areas that need improvement.

“We expect Australia to step it up another notch this weekend and we know we need to do the same.

“We want to start well and make sure we are disciplined and precise from the start. Then it’s about keeping the arm wrestling going throughout.”

Meanwhile, Australia coach Joe Schmidt has made one enforced change with captain Liam Wright unavailable due to a shoulder injury.

Charlie Cale joins the back row trio, starting at number eight, and Rob Valetini moves to fill Wright’s blindside role. Prop James Slipper will captain the team.

Wales team: C Winnett (Cardiff); L Williams (Kubota Spears), O Watkin (Ospreys), M Grady (Cardiff), R Dyer (Dragons); B Thomas (Cardiff), E Bevan (Cardiff); G Thomas (Ospreys), D Lake (Ospreys, captain), A Griffin (Bath), C Tshiunza (Exeter), D Jenkins (Exeter), J Botham (Cardiff), T Reffell (Leicester), T Plumtree (Scarlets).

Substitutions: E Lloyd (Cardiff), K Mathias (Scarlets), H O’Connor (Scarlets), C Hill (Secom Rugguts), M Martin (Cardiff), K Hardy (Ospreys), S Costelow (Scarlets), N Tompkins (Saracens).