SQUEEZING five hefty props into the World Cup squad promises to be a challenge for Warren Gatland, a situation that leaves Tomas Francis knowing he must shine for Wales this evening.

The Exeter tighthead will wear 3 on his back against Australia at Principality Stadium after being unable to feature in the autumn opener against Scotland as it was played outside World Rugby’s Test window.

He watched on as Cardiff Blues prospect Dillon Lewis produced a fine display with Dragons powerhouse Leon Brown coming off the bench in the closing minutes for his fourth cap.

The Scarlets’ Samson Lee had established himself as first-choice tighthead in recent years but even in his absence through a minor injury there is a selection headache for Gatland and forwards coach Robin McBryde.

The 31-strong squad for Japan 2019 is likely to feature three tightheads and two looseheads, leaving everybody desperate to impress in the 12 Tests between now and the tournament opener against Georgia in Toyota.

“Samson, Leon, they both have had great starts to the season,” said Francis, fresh from a two-week conditioning block.

“Dillon played well in Europe and carried that into last week with 77 minutes of defence, jackaling, solid scrum – he has put the marker down.

“That is where we want to be as a team with depth in every position. It’s my turn this weekend and I have to accept the challenge and have my best game.

“All you can do is play well when you have your chance, Dillon did that last week and it’s mine this week. Play well for your club, if you get into a camp then train well and put your best foot forward.”

A clash with the Wallabies used to be a chance for props to catch the eye by marching the eight in gold backwards at a rate of knots.

That has changed with Australia heading for Cardiff with a hefty pack and Francis locking horns with 52-times capped loosehead Scott Sio.

“They’re much improved, it used to be said you could target the Aussie front row but that is not the case anymore,” said the Chiefs prop.

“They are a big unit that has been together a lot, with a lot of caps, so it’s a good challenge. They are one of the best out there and it will be fun to play against them. As a tighthead prop this is what you relish.”

Francis is winning his 34th cap and will throw everything at the Aussies before making way for Lewis.

“I won’t hold anything back, but that has always been the case,” said the 26-year-old. “We will go flat out from the start and want to keep the ball on the park and play at a high tempo.

“The strength in depth is the best we have had in a long time and if I blow then Dillon will come on and do just as good a job.

“There been a good atmosphere in camp and those not in the 23 have set the standard for the boys that have got the chance, and it was the same last week.

“A squad environment like that brings the best out of you on a Saturday.”

Wales: L Halfpenny; G North, J Davies, H Parkes, J Adams; G Anscombe, G Davies; N Smith, K Owens, T Francis, A Beard, A W Jones (captain), D Lydiate, J Tipuric, R Moriarty.

Replacements: E Dee, R Evans, D Lewis, C Hill, E Jenkins, T Williams, D Biggar, L Williams.

Australia: D Haylett-Petty; I Folau, S Kerevi, K Beale, S Naivalu; B Foley, W Genia; S Sio, T Latu, A Alaalatoa, I Rodda, A Coleman, J Dempsey, M Hooper (capt), D Pocock.

Replacements: T Polota-Nau, S Kepu, T Tupou, R Simmons, N Hanigan, N Phipps, M Toomua, J Maddocks.

Referee: Ben O’Keeffe (NZ)