Shropshire Star

Wales recall Sir Ian Botham’s grandson James in bid to salvage Australia series

Ian Botham made his mark at the nearby Melbourne Cricket Ground in 1986.


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

Botham , 26, has been called into a reshuffled back row after number eight Aaron Wainwright was ruled out because of a hamstring injury.

And when he runs out at AAMI Park, it will undoubtedly evoke family memories of Sir Ian Botham’s cricketing heroics in the 1986 Boxing Day Ashes Test.

Sir Ian Botham celebrates another wicket
Sir Ian Botham set up England’s win in the 1986 Boxing Day Ashes Test (PA)

Botham’s five-wicket first-innings haul across the road at the Melbourne Cricket Ground set England up for a successful Ashes retention.

Australia collapsed from 108 for three to 141 all out as Botham and Gladstone Small wreaked havoc, and England ended up winning by an innings and 14 runs in three days.

It put them 2-0 ahead in the series with one game left, meaning no way back for an Australian team that had been horribly outplayed.

Cardiff back-row forward Botham, who packs down at blindside flanker, will win his 13th cap when Wales aim to end a run of eight successive Test defeats that started at the 2023 World Cup.

Taine Plumtree moves across the back row to replace Wainwright, who will play no further part in the tour after he was hurt during the closing minutes of last Saturday’s first Test.

The pack is otherwise unchanged from that 25-16 loss, with prop Gareth Thomas recovering from a leg issue to start.

Gloucester wing Josh Hathaway’s hopes of backing up his Test debut with another start Down Under, though, have been dashed by an elbow injury.

With Hathaway sidelined, Liam Williams switches from full-back and Cardiff’s Cameron Winnett returns to make a seventh start in Wales’ last eight Tests.

Louis Rees-Zammit scores a World Cup try for Wales
Wales’ last Test match win was against Georgia at the 2023 World Cup (David Davies/PA)

Another loss against Australia would leave Wales one short of equalling their worst run, which was a 10-game losing sequence in 2002 and 2003 under New Zealander Steve Hansen.

Wales boss Warren Gatland has just a 30 per cent success rate during his second stint in charge, with 14 defeats since he took over from Wayne Pivac for the 2023 Six Nations.

“We are looking forward to getting back out on the pitch this weekend in Melbourne,” Gatland said.

“This week we have been going through our processes, building on what worked well and sharpening the areas that need improvement.

“We expect Australia to go up another level this weekend, and we know we need to as well.

“We want to start well and make sure we are disciplined and accurate from the off. Then it is about keeping in the arm-wrestle for the duration.”

Australia head coach Joe Schmidt, meanwhile, has made an enforced change, with skipper 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, capt), A Griffin (Bath), C Tshiunza (Exeter), D Jenkins (Exeter), J Botham (Cardiff), T Reffell (Leicester), T Plumtree (Scarlets).

Replacements: 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).


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