Gareth Bale's half-time substitution in Wales' 1-0 Nations League win over Finland on Friday (AEST) was planned due to his lack of match fitness, Ryan Giggs has revealed.
Despite being frozen out in recent months at Real Madrid, Bale captained his country in their first League B Group 4 match in Helsinki on Friday.
His rustiness was evident, though, as he fired well wide when he cut onto his left foot in the first period and Bale was replaced by Liverpool midfielder Harry Wilson at the interval.
Bale had played only a combined 100 minutes since February for Madrid and Giggs explained that he had Monday's game against Bulgaria in mind when he made the switch.
"It was planned before," Giggs told Sky Sports. "He's had no football at all. It was a real juggling act picking the team.
"Gareth has had the least amount of football out of everyone so it was always the plan to give him 45 minutes, or, if he felt good, an hour.
"I thought it was best, with Sunday in mind, to bring him off after 45 minutes and then give Harry, who hasn't played much football, some minutes as well."
Without Bale on the pitch, it was Daniel James and Kieffer Moore who came to the fore for the winner with 10 minutes to go.
Manchester United winger James got away down the left-hand side and Moore – who had earlier had a goal ruled out for a foul – applied the finish to give Wales a winning start to their Nations League campaign.
"I thought it was a really gritty performance – not our usual flowing football that we are capable of – but credit to Finland who made it difficult for us," Giggs added of the win.
"I think it is the kind of game where we can learn from but also take a lot of pluses because we dug out the result in the end.
"With a clean sheet, you have always got chances because of the players we have got and those players produced again – DJ and Kieffer."