Ryan Giggs said his Wales side let themselves down during the 1-0 defeat to Albania in Chris Gunter's landmark game.

Chris Gunter became Wales' most-capped player in Elbasan on Tuesday but Ryan Giggs' side could not mark the occasion with victory as they were beaten 1-0 by Albania.

Gunter made his international bow in 2007 and the goalless friendly saw him go past Neville Southall with 93 caps, a tally the 29-year-old could significantly add to before the end of his career.

A celebratory night in Cardiff might have a better way for the full-back to separate given there was very little to cheer for those fans who had made the journey. 

Sam Vokes missed two glorious chances for Wales either side of the break and they proved costly as Bekim Balaj secured victory for Albania with a 58th-minute penalty.

Gunter's landmark night saw Wales make a positive start but finding a way through the Albanian defence proved harder than Scotland had found three days earlier.

Lively attacking duo David Brooks and Harry Wilson looked the most likely to threaten Etrit Berisha's goal, with the latter wasting Wales' best opportunity with a long-range free kick that drifted wide.

Taulant Xhaka was lucky to stay on the pitch just before the break as he appeared to move his head towards Brooks', but the officials only showed him a yellow card.

A flowing move – started by Wilson – eventually saw Joe Allen play in Vokes, but his low shot was easily saved by the alert ​Berisha.

Vokes failed again just after the restart as he proved unable to turn in Tom Lockyer's header from a yard out, the Burnley striker somehow finding the hands of the goalkeeper.

Despite dominating, Wales found themselves behind just before the hour when Wilson was adjudged to have pulled back Xhaka in the penalty area. Balaj made no mistake from 12 yards.

Even the introduction of Aaron Ramsey and Gareth Bale could not turn Wales' fortunes around as Giggs's men ended 2018 with back-to-back defeats.

 

What does it mean? Miserable end to Giggs' first year

Since succeeding Chris Coleman in January, Giggs has overseen only three wins from nine matches, losing four of the last five. Added to that, Wales also failed to earn promotion from the Nations League as they finished second in their group with Denmark and the Republic of Ireland.

Wasteful Vokes costs Wales

Vokes' poor form in front of goal for Wales continued after he failed to add to the three strikes he has to his name this year. Twice he should have beaten Berisha but unerringly found the keeper.

Xhaka's a lucky boy

It may have been a friendly but Xhaka was fortunate not to see red after clashing with Brooks, the midfielder pulling his rivals leg before appearing to headbutt the Bournemouth man.

What's next

With the next international break in March, both managers will have time to assess their options ahead of the European Championship qualifiers.

Leigh Halfpenny has been ruled out of Wales' clash with South Africa this weekend after failing to recover from concussion.

The full-back sustained the issue in a tackle by Samu Kerevi during a 9-6 victory over Australia on November 10.

After sitting out last Saturday's 74-24 victory over Tonga, Halfpenny showed signs in training this week that he is yet to fully bounce back from the issue, with Hallam Amos now added to the squad as cover.

"Leigh is out," said assistant coach Rob Howley. "He did some training on Saturday morning and was feeling a little bit light-headed. Only common sense.

"George North was back in full training this morning and is available.

"From a back three perspective it gives us an opportunity to look at others.

"Liam Williams has played at full-back, Gareth Anscombe has stepped up there and Hallam Amos has played there."

Including Anscombe at 15 could go some way to solving a growing fly-half selection headache for Warren Gatland, with Dan Biggar having put in a man-of-the-match display when given his chance against Tonga.

"Everyone has debated 10 in Welsh rugby for so many years and that will never change," added Howley.

"It comes down to the skill set and collective cohesion. Gareth Anscombe played particularly well against Australia and Dan was exceptional against Tonga.

"We were very clinical."

South Wales Police have confirmed that a 16-year-old boy has admitted assaulting Wales rugby legend Gareth Thomas on Saturday.

Former British and Irish Lion Thomas, capped 100 times by his country, posted a video on Twitter stating that he had been subjected to a homophobic attack in the Welsh capital.

Thomas thanked police after he requested the teenager was dealt with by way of restorative justice so he could "learn more than any other way" following what he described as "a hate crime for my sexuality".

South Wales Police later stated: "We are aware that a video has been posted on social media by former rugby international Gareth Thomas in relation to a hate crime which happened on The Hayes in Cardiff city centre.

"We can confirm a local 16-year-old boy was dealt through restorative justice following the incident at around 9pm.

"Restorative justice was at the request of Mr Thomas and accepted by the teenager who admitted assault and was apologetic for his actions.

"Restorative justice is about putting victim needs at the centre of the criminal justice system, finding positive solutions to crime and encouraging young people to be accountable for the consequences of their actions."

Wales rugby legend Gareth Thomas says he was the victim of a homophobic attack in Cardiff on Saturday.

Thomas, who was capped 100 times by his country and played three Tests for the British and Irish Lions, posted a video on Twitter in which he claimed to have been targeted for his sexuality.

Wales had beaten Tonga 74-24 in the city earlier in the day.

"Last night I was the victim in my home city of a hate crime for my sexuality," said Thomas, sporting cuts and bruises to his face.

"I want to say thank you to the police who were involved and were very helpful and allowed me to do restorative justice with the people who did this, because I feel they could learn more that way than any other way.

"And also to the people of Cardiff, who supported me and helped me.

"There's a lot of people out there who want to hurt us but, unfortunately for them, there's a lot more that want to help us heal."

Chris Gunter hopes Gareth Bale can help his family make it to Albania to watch him make history for Wales on Tuesday.

The Reading defender equalled Neville Southall's national record of 92 caps when he came on as a first-half substitute during the 2-1 Nations League defeat to Denmark on Friday.

Wales boss Ryan Giggs confirmed after the fixture in Cardiff that Gunter will start the friendly against Albania, paving the way for the 29-year-old to move clear at the summit on the all-time list of appearances.

With the hope of getting his loved ones to Elbasan in time to witness the occasion, Gunter revealed his plan to ask Real Madrid star Bale for a helping hand with the travel arrangements.

"It will be a special night," Gunter said. "I am going to ask Gaz [Bale] if I can borrow his plane to get some people over. If it is free I am sure they will.

"I am trying to get some family over there. It is not the easiest place to get to but if the Welsh fans can then I am sure I can find a way to get some people over.

"There are people from my family who have watched every single game of mine, whether live or on television.

"I know they will be watching wherever and it will be a special night and hopefully we can get a result so I can enjoy it with a win."

Gunter moved level with goalkeeper Southall when coming on to replace the injured Paul Dummett.

His record-breaking moment will now come on the road rather than in front of a home crowd, yet the versatile full-back believes it is fitting to achieve the milestone in front of Wales' loyal band of travelling supporters.

"If I can do it on Tuesday I think it would be fitting in a way because it would be in front of people who have probably been to far and wide places where I have picked up a lot of my caps," he added.

"If I could do it in front of those who spend their hard-earned money getting to all those places it would be a huge honour in terms of them being able to see in a place where no one thought it would ever happen."

Dummett and fellow defender James Chester - who was withdrawn due to injury early in the second half at the Cardiff City Stadium - will not be involved against Albania.

Wales cruised to an ultimately comfortable 74-24 victory over Tonga on Saturday, although they were briefly made to sweat by the Pacific Islanders.

Three tries in the first 11 minutes - including one for Liam Williams, winning his 50th cap - saw the much-changed hosts threaten to run away with the match.

But Tonga regrouped and managed to drag themselves back from 24-3 down to pull level early in the second half, having earlier seen a try disallowed for a knock on.

From that point, however, it was all Wales.

Steff Evans, Tomos Williams, Tyler Morgan, Cory Hill, Aled Davies and Rhys Patchell all touched down before Liam Williams marked his big day with a second try.

Dan Biggar - back in the side having lost the number 10 shirt to Gareth Anscombe for last weekend's victory over Australia - contributed 19 points, including 14 from the tee, to give coach Warren Gatland a selection headache ahead of next weekend's visit of South Africa.

The result extends Wales' winning run to seven matches at home. Only once since 1978 have they enjoyed a longer such run - nine games between 1997 and 1999.

Ryan Giggs declared his pride at Wales' performance despite going down to a 2-1 defeat against an "efficient" Denmark.

Goals from Nicolai Jorgensen and Martin Braithwaite secured Denmark promotion to the top tier of the Nations League as they completed the double over their Group 4 opponents.

Wales did pull one back through Gareth Bale during a dramatic conclusion, the Real Madrid forward finding the net just 84 seconds after Braithwaite had made it 2-0, but the hosts came up short in Cardiff.

Despite the disappointing result, Giggs was able to look back positively on his young team's campaign in the new competition, even though they missed out on clinching a place in League A.

"I thought it was an exciting game, two evenly matched teams, chances wise. Maybe we even pipped it," the former Manchester United player told Sky Sports.

"We came up against a good side, efficient and good at what they do. They win games and get the job done.

"I said to the lads that I'm proud of them. They kept going until the end, exciting me and exciting the crowd.

"You see David Brooks taking players on and it's exciting, but we need to learn the other side, the discipline that Denmark are so good at.

"They've been together a long time and are a difficult team to beat. Overall, considering the two games, there was not a lot to choose between us."

Wales had their chances to take the lead in the first half, Bale and James Chester both failing to hit the target with headers, before Jorgensen finished off a rapid counter to put Denmark 1-0 up.

Giggs admitted the opening goal was crucial in the contest, particularly as it gave the visitors something to cling onto after the interval.

"They don't give away many goals, so when they go a goal ahead they very rarely give away the game. They fall back into their shape and are disciplined," Giggs added.

"Up until then, though, it was even. We had a few headers go just past the post and a couple of injuries, so things didn't go our way.

"But we were still in the game until the end."

Denmark secured promotion to the top tier of the Nations League with a hard-fought 2-1 win over Wales on Friday.

Having won the reverse fixture 2-0 in Aarhus, Denmark completed the double over their hosts thanks to a goal in each half, Nicolai Jorgensen grabbing the first when he converted a one-on-one opportunity in the 42nd minute to finish off a rapid counter.

The visitors defended doggedly before Martin Braithwaite struck late to double their advantage, the Middlesbrough midfielder volleying home with two minutes left of the 90.

Gareth Bale - available again after missing the games against Spain and the Republic of Ireland in October - quickly pulled one back for Wales when converting Ashley Williams' long pass over the top, but Ryan Giggs' side could not find a leveller in five additional minutes.

The result means they miss out on the chance to guarantee a play-off for Euro 2020, should they fail to reach the tournament during the regular qualifying process, while also relegating Ireland to League C.

It also ruined a record-equalling outing for Chris Gunter, the Wales defender replacing the injured Paul Dummett in the first half to level Neville Southall's national record of 92 caps.

Liam Williams will win his 50th Wales cap against Tonga on Saturday while Dan Biggar will play at fly-half in a team featuring 14 changes.

Wing Williams, 27, made his international debut six years ago and, like Biggar, came on as a replacement last weekend in the 9-6 victory over Australia.

It was Biggar who slotted over the crucial 76th-minute penalty to earn his side a first win over the Wallabies in 10 years and he will form a half-back combination with Tomos Williams.

Wales, who will have debutant Jonah Holmes at full-back, will be captained by Ellis Jenkins, while Wyn Jones will make his first international start.

Lock Adam Beard is the only man to retain his place in the starting XV while Rhys Patchell is among the replacements.

"Saturday is a fantastic opportunity for a number of players," said Wales head coach Warren Gatland.

"It's Jonah's first game, which is exciting, and Liam reaches his 50th [cap], which is a great achievement.

"We are looking forward to the challenge of Tonga. They had a great win last weekend against the French Barbarians and we know it is going to be a tough, physical challenge.

"We have spoken about creating depth and for us that is all about creating a squad that is full of first-teamers, everyone in the squad capable of starting. The boys this weekend have to put their hand up for the final match and put pressure on the players who started last weekend.

"Ellis captains the team for the second time whilst making his first start at home and for Wyn, it is his first start.

"It's important to realise when selecting a team that we look at all these things in terms of experience, starts, depth balance and opportunity, and all that goes into the mix."

 

Wales: Jonah Holmes, Liam Williams, Tyler Morgan, Owen Watkin, Steff Evans, Dan Biggar, Tomos Williams; Wyn Jones, Elliot Dee, Leon Brown, Jake Ball, Adam Beard, Aaron Wainwright, Ellis Jenkins, Seb Davies.

Replacements: Ryan Elias, Rob Evans, Tomas Francis, Cory Hill, Ross Moriarty, Aled Davies, Rhys Patchell, Josh Adams.

Samson Lee will play no part in Wales' remaining November internationals after he was released from the squad with a hamstring injury.

The Scarlets prop has been battling the issue while with the team and has not played for his country since the Six Nations earlier this year, sitting out Test wins over Scotland and Australia in recent weeks.

It has now been decided Lee will not be fit in time to feature against either Tonga or South Africa before the end of the month and he has departed the Wales camp.

Skills coach Neil Jenkins said: "It's unfortunate for Samson. He's an outstanding rugby player and he's suffered a few injuries. It's sad to lose him but it is what it is."

Saturday's clash with the Wallabies gave Wales further injury concerns, but Jenkins is confident both Tomas Francis and George North will recover swiftly.

"The boys are a bit battered and bruised after a tough Test match - as you'd expect against Australia," Jenkins said.

"But there's always smiles when you come out on top. We managed to scrape through for the first time in 10 years, so the atmosphere is pretty good.

"Francis is OK. He'll be alright. We'll see how he goes in the next few days. It's the culmination of a tough Test match. These boys go through the mill when they play, but hopefully he'll be fine and be in contention.

"George North is the same. We'll see how he goes the next few days. He had a heavy knock and couldn't play any further part in the game. They'll go through the treatment."

Alun Wyn Jones says he was left feeling his age by Wales ending their lengthy wait for a win over Australia, but insists beating the Wallabies has no bearing on next year's Rugby World Cup showdown.

For the first time since November 2008, Wales were able to celebrate a win over Australia after a scrappy 9-6 triumph at the Principality Stadium in Saturday's November international.

Captain Wyn Jones was the sole survivor of the current side from their last triumph, leaving the second-rower to contemplate the scale of their achievement.

"I think it's been a long time! I think somebody reminded me I was the sole survivor from 2008 so that shows how old I am, I suppose," he told BBC Sport.

"But I'm really pleased for the squad. We've lost by many a fine margin and, I'll be honest, we won by a fine margin as well. 

"I'm proud of the boys. We've been gracious in defeat for a long, long time and we're going to be gracious in success."

Wales will meet Australia in Pool D of the World Cup in Japan next year, but Wyn Jones played down the significance of Saturday's result.

"It's a long time away, the World Cup, and there's a lot of games to go under the bridge as it were," he added. 

"I've got a huge amount of admiration and respect for the Australia side and obviously I look back at the win rate they've had against us."

Leigh Halfpenny kicked six of Wales points but had been taken off by the time Dan Biggar nailed the late winning penalty.

And Wyn Jones hailed Biggar's nerve, saying: "He's a competitive animal. 

"I think he probably wouldn't have wanted it any other way, to come down to the wire and fair play, he came on and essentially did his job as a 20 today."

Australia have now won just three of 11 Tests in 2018, but Wallabies skipper Michael Hooper is confident the team can turn the corner.

"Yeah, obviously that [losing the winning streak] hurts," he said. "Our preparations were really solid this week and I felt that our defence was great. 

"I felt like we were able to repel a lot of what the Welsh threw at us. But credit to them, they stuck at it really strong. You can see how happy they are to get on top of us. 

"It was a real grudge match, a real Test match. There was grinding, back and forth. Congratulations to Wales on the win but it really hurts.

"We'll regroup again, we've got two more games on this trip and a hell of a lot to play for each week. 

"This really hurts, but I'll back everyone, back the coaching staff, back the players that we're going to turn this into winning results."

Wales ended a 10-year wait for victory over Australia with a gutsy 9-6 win in a scrappy November international at the Principality Stadium on Saturday.

Not since November 2008 had Wales beaten the Wallabies, who had racked up 13 straight consecutive wins over Warren Gatland's side.

But two penalties from Leigh Halfpenny and a nerveless late three-pointer from Dan Biggar was enough to make it seven straight wins for Wales in a match riddled with handling errors.

It could have been even more comfortable had the usually reliable Halfpenny not missed two simple kicks by his lofty standards in an arm-wrestle of a contest.

Australia, though, have now won just three of 11 Tests in 2018 and the pressure will only continue to grow on under-fire coach Michael Cheika just a year out from the Rugby World Cup.

There was little of note in an attritional first half, with Halfpenny's wayward kicking the main talking point.

The full-back had already missed a relatively simple effort by the time he split the posts to put Wales on the board.

Australia were looking the more likely to score a try, but only had a Bernard Foley three-pointer to show for their efforts after Wales were pinged for offside.

But Wales should have gone in front before the break, a shocked Halfpenny pushing a simple effort in front of the posts wide.

The game became increasingly scrappy in the second half, with Australia guilty of knock-ons at key moments and Wales equally frustrating with a couple of nudges forward.

Halfpenny had the chance to exorcise his first-half demons with 12 minutes remaining, though, after Australia were pulled up for an infringement at the ruck.

From a similar position to his first half shocker, Halfpenny again did not make the cleanest contact but did manage to just land the effort inside the right-hand post.

The home crowd let their annoyance known when Halfpenny was wiped out by Samu Kerevi. There was seemingly no malice but did appear to be shoulder-to-head contact.

Shortly after the frustrations were worsened when Wales were pulled up for holding and Matt Toomua nailed a lengthy kick from the right touchline.

But Biggar, on as a replacement for Halfpenny, kept his cool with a kick from the 22 line when Australia were guilty of laying in on the ruck and Wales were left to celebrate a famous win.

Tolu Latu will make only his second Test start when Australia face Wales on Saturday, while Jack Dempsey and Samu Kerevi also come into the side.

Latu was sin-binned after coming off the bench in the Wallabies' last two matches against New Zealand and Argentina, but the hooker gets a chance from the off in Cardiff.

Flanker Dempsey and centre Kerevi are promoted by Michael Cheika following their performances as replacements in a 37-20 defeat at the hands of the All Blacks in Yokohama last month.

Israel Folau moves to the wing to accommodate Kerevi, while lock Adam Coleman returns from a groin injury at the Principality Stadium.

Tatafu Polota-Nau, Matt Toomua and Jack Maddocks will start on the bench, with Marika Koroibete missing out on a place in the squad along with Adam Ashley-Cooper.

Australia: Dane Haylett-Petty, Israel Folau, Samu Kerevi, Kurtley Beale, Sefa Naivalu, Bernard Foley, Will Genia; Scott Sio, Tolu Latu, Allan Alaalatoa, Izack Rodda, Adam Coleman, Jack Dempsey, Michael Hooper (captain), David Pocock.

Replacements: Tatafu Polota-Nau, Sekope Kepu, Taniela Tupou, Rob Simmons, Ned Hanigan, Nick Phipps, Matt Toomua, Jack Maddocks.

Dan Biggar and Liam Williams have to settle for a place on the bench as Warren Gatland makes three changes to the Wales side to face Australia on Saturday.

Tomas Francis, Adam Beard and Josh Adams come into the team for the clash in Cardiff at the expense of Luke Morgan, Cory Hill and Dillon Lewis.

Hill and Lewis have been named among the replacements, but there is no place in the squad for Morgan.

Prop Francis, lock Beard and wing Adams have been rewarded for impressive performances on the tour of Argentina.

British and Irish Lions duo Biggar and Williams return to the squad after they were unavailable for last weekend's win over Scotland as the match was staged outside of World Rugby's international window.

Gareth Anscombe retains his starting berth at fly-half at the expense of Biggar and Adams get the nod over Williams.

 

Wales: Leigh Halfpenny, George North, Jonathan Davies, Hadleigh Parkes, Josh Adams, Gareth Anscombe, Gareth Davies; Nicky Smith, Ken Owens, Tomas Francis, Adam Beard, Alun Wyn Jones (captain), Dan Lydiate, Justin Tipuric, Ross Moriarty.

Replacements: Elliot Dee, Rob Evans, Dillon Lewis, Cory Hill, Ellis Jenkins, Tomos Williams, Dan Biggar, Liam Williams.

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