OPENSIDE Taine Basham will go toe-to-toe with the All Blacks this evening after developing the fitness to earn a promotion from impact sub.

The 21-year-old from Talywain will make his first Test start for Wales in the autumn opener against New Zealand (kick-off 5.15pm), joining forces with Dragons teammates Ross Moriarty and Aaron Wainwright in the back row.

Basham enjoyed his first three international outings in the summer when he came off the bench against Canada and Argentina (twice) at Principality Stadium.

Now he makes the considerable step up against an All Blacks side that can raise the tempo to put sides out of their comfort zone.

With Justin Tipuric, Josh Navidi, Ellis Jenkins and Thomas Young unavailable, it is partly through necessity that Wayne Pivac has turned to the Dragons prospect.

However, the head coach has long been a fan of Basham and believes openside has earned his shot.

South Wales Argus:

"Taine's involvements and work rate has improved. He has got himself fitter since the summer series, which was one of his work-ons, and his discipline is a lot better," said Pivac, who first called up the flanker in 2019.

"He is hungrier and working harder over the ball, so we think that his all-round seven game is improving.

"Taine is a player that we have had in the last couple of squads and we want to keep developing him and working with him.

"He brings other aspects to the game from seven with his power and good anticipation – he has big moments in games. It's just about getting that all-round game going and this will be a big test for him."

Basham started the season on the bench for the Dragons but returned to the XV against Connacht and won man of the match for his exploits in the win at the Sportsground.

He followed that up with a typically dynamic performance in the defeat to the Stormers in Newport.

Former Wales and Lions centre Jamie Roberts, who is on the comeback trail from a knee injury, has been impressed with his Dragons teammate.

South Wales Argus:

"He's really knocked the door down recently. He has an all-round game," said the 34-year-old to WalesOnline.

"He's punchy in the carry. He's brilliant over the ball. He's a link player with a huge skill set."

"I don't think he realises how good a player he is. I know because I play alongside him," continued Roberts.

"His ability to carry the ball at pace, hit it and not lose any power or pace, is pretty special."

"He's completely fearless in the carry. I love seeing that in a player. The ability to time a run onto a pass perfectly and just get teams on the front foot."

Basham joins forces with blindside Moriarty and number eight Wainwright while Dragons lock Will Rowlands is on the bench.

Fly-half Gareth Anscombe will make his first Wales start since 2019 after an impressive return from a knee injury for the Ospreys.

Wales: J McNicholl (Scarlets); O Lane (Cardiff), J Davies (Scarlets), J Williams (Scarlets), J Adams (Cardiff); G Anscombe (Ospreys), T Williams (Cardiff); W Jones (Scarlets), R Elias (Scarlets), T Francis (Ospreys), A Beard (Ospreys), A W Jones (Ospreys, capt), R Moriarty (Dragons), T Basham (Dragons), A Wainwright (Dragons).

Replacements: K Myhill (Cardiff), R Carre (Cardiff), D Lewis (Cardiff), W Rowlands (Dragons), S Davies (Cardiff), G Davies (Scarlets), R Priestland (Cardiff), B Thomas (Cardiff).

l Wales’ autumn fixtures, plus those over the coming weeks from England, Scotland, Italy and France, will be shown live on Amazon Prime Video.

New members can sign up for £7.99 a month, and are eligible sign-up to a free 30 day trial.

S4C will be showing same-day match highlights of Wales matches.

Radio commentary of Pivac's men is exclusively on Talksport.