Wales bring in fit-again North

Wed, 22 Feb 2017 12:34
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TEAM ANNOUNCEMENT: Wales have opted to make a solitary change for their crucial Six Nations encounter against Scotland by bringing fit-again George North back into the matchday team.

North suffered a leg injury in their tournament opener against Italy and was initially selected into the team to play England the following round. However, he failed a fitness test a few hours before kick-off and was replaced by Alex Cuthbert.

Cuthbert was heavily criticised for his role in Wales' 16-21 defeat by the defending champions in Cardiff and finds himself being axed to make way for North. England came from behind to win when, with just four minutes left, Elliot Daly scored a dramatic try in the corner after Cuthbert missed a tackle.

Coach Rob Howley's decision to select Cardiff flyer Cuthbert against England was slammed as a "blind hope" call by former Wales wing Shane Williams. Meanwhile, Howley resisted the temptation to restore Taulupe Faletau, who came off the bench against England, to the starting side.

He instead retained a loose trio of Ross Moriarty, Justin Tipuric and Sam Warburton. The experienced Faletau is again among the replacements, with his Bath teammate Luke Charteris taking over as second row cover from Cory Hill after recovering from a fractured hand.

Moriarty was one of Wales' outstanding performers against England and Howley also faced flak for taking him off as early as the 53rd minute. Knee injuries have seen Faletau make just a couple of 80-minute appearances for Bath this season.

"We have been able to select from a position of strength which is a huge positive and it is good to welcome George [North] back into the starting XV and Luke [Charteris] on to the bench.

"In terms of intensity and performance, we stepped up a level against England and we need to take the positives from that performance and take it into 80 minutes against Scotland at Murrayfield.

"We know what we are capable of and we want to deliver that on Saturday alongside the result, which international rugby is all about," said Howley in a Welsh Rugby Union statement.

Both Wales and Scotland remain in title contention after one win from two matches so far this Six Nations, with the Welsh beating Italy 33-7 in Rome first time up and the Scots launching their campaign with a 27-22 win at home to Ireland.

Wales: 15 Leigh Halfpenny, 14 George North, 13 Jonathan Davies, 12 Scott Williams, 11 Liam Williams, 10 Dan Biggar, 9 Rhys Webb, 8 Ross Moriarty, 7 Justin Tipuric, 6 Sam Warburton, 5 Alun Wyn Jones (captain), 4 Jake Ball, 3 Tomas Francis, 2 Ken Owens, 1 Rob Evans.
Replacements: 16 Scott Baldwin, 17 Nicky Smith, 18 Samson Lee, 19 Luke Charteris, 20 Taulupe Faletau, 21 Gareth Davies, 22 Sam Davies, 23 Jamie Roberts.

Date: Saturday, February 25
Venue: Murrayfield, Edinburgh
Kick-off: 14.25 GMT
Referee: Johnny Lacey (Ireland)
Assistant referees: JP Doyle (England), Matthew Carley (England)
TMO: Rowan Kitt (England)

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