Warburton returns to lead Wales

Tue, 04 Feb 2014 12:35
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Regular captain Sam Warburton returns to the Welsh starting line-up as one of three changes to the side to face Ireland in Dublin on Saturday.

Regular captain Sam Warburton returns to the Welsh starting line-up as one of three changes to the side to face Ireland in Dublin on Saturday.

The Cardiff Blues flank, regional teammate Gethin Jenkins and Newport Gwent Dragons second row forward Andrew Coombs come into the side that kicked off the defence of their Six Nations title with victory against Italy last weekend.

Jenkins comes into the front row and will win his 102nd Wales cap a the Aviva Stadium alongside Richard Hibbard and Adam Jones (both Ospreys).

In the second row Coombs, who made his debut against Ireland 12 months ago replaces Luke Charteris, who is ruled out with a hamstring injury and he will partner Alun Wyn Jones (Ospreys) who led Wales to their opening day victory.

Warburton, who featured off the bench against the Azzurri, starts at openside flank alongside Dan Lydiate (Racing Metro) and Taulupe Faletau (Newport Gwent Dragons).

Since making his Six Nations debut at the Aviva Stadium in 2012 Faletau has started every match in the competition for Wales.

The backline remains unchanged for the trip across the Irish sea.

Fullback Leigh Halfpenny will win his 50th cap aged just 25.

He again lines up in a back three alongside Alex Cuthbert (Cardiff Blues) and George North (Northampton Saints) for a 12th straight time in the Six Nations.

Try scorer at the Millennium Stadium last Saturday, Scott Williams (Scarlets), and Racing Metro's Jamie Roberts continue their partnership in the midfield, with Rhys Priestland (No.10, Scarlets) and Mike Phillips (No.9, Racing Metro) featuring at halfback.

"It's great to bring Sam and Gethin back into the side and it's a good opportunity for Andrew Coombs to start as well," said coach warren Gatland.

"Last weekend was a good hit out for a lot of reasons, but we still have things to work on and we know how important this game is.

"We haven't lost an away match in the Six Nations since 2011 and we have to have the belief and confidence that we can do it again this weekend.

"It's going to be tough, both sides won their opening game, we will have to be physical and take it to them.
"We feel in most tournaments we get stronger as it goes on and that will need to be the case this weekend."

On the bench Paul James (Bath Rugby) will win his 50th cap if he takes to the field and he is joined amongst the replacements by Scarlets front row duo Ken Owens and Rhodri Jones.

Uncapped Scarlets second row Jake Ball features in a matchday squad for the first time and is named alongside Justin Tipuric (Ospreys), Rhys Webb (Ospreys), James Hook (Perpignan) and Liam Williams (Scarlets).

Wales: 15 Leigh Halfpenny, 14 Alex Cuthbert, 13 Scott Williams, 12 Jamie Roberts, 11 George North, 10 Rhys Priestland, 9 Mike Phillips, 8 Taulupe Faletau, 7 Sam Warburton (captain), 6 Dan Lydiate, 5 Alun Wyn Jones, 4 Andrew Coombs, 3 Adam Jones, 2 Richard Hibbard, 1 Gethin Jenkins.
Replacements: 16 Ken Owens, 17 Paul James, 18 Rhodri Jones, 19 Jake Ball, 20 Justin Tipuric, 21 Rhys Webb, 22 James Hook, 23 Liam Williams.

Date: Saturday, February 8
Venue: Aviva Stadium, Dublin
Kick-off: 14.30 (14,30 GMT)
Referee: Wayne Barnes (England)
Assistant referees: Glen Jackson (New Zealand), JP Doyle (England)
TMO: Graham Hughes (England)

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