Howley refuses to bow to pressure

Wed, 08 Mar 2017 12:52

TEAM ANNOUNCEMENT: Wales coach Rob Howley refused to bow to public pressure for wholesale changes.

He named an unaltered matchday squad for Friday's Six Nations game against Ireland, insisting the team did not become "bad overnight".

After an opening win over Italy, Wales have gone on to lose to England and Scotland, the team and Howley finding themselves under intense scrutiny after a particularly disappointing second-half capitulation against the Scots.

But Howley insisted Wednesday that his experienced team deserved another chance, with Wales seeking to avoid three consecutive Six Nations defeats for the first time since 2007.

"We felt it was important the same group of players had the opportunity to go out and perform on Friday so we have named an unchanged matchday squad," said Howley, named interim head coach as Warren Gatland prepares to lead the British and Irish Lions on the mid-year tour to New Zealand.

"Friday is an opportunity for us. There is a lot of experience in our group and you don't become a bad team overnight. We want to show what we can do and that experience will be very important this week.

"We know we need to be more clinical and we need to execute better under pressure and we have been working hard on that during the last few weeks."

Justin Tipuric will win his 50th cap at openside, lining up alongside Sam Warburton and Ross Moriarty in the back-row. Captain Alun Wyn Jones and Jake Ball continue their partnership in the second-row with Rob Evans, Ken Owens and Tomas Francis named in the front-row.

Ospreys pair Rhys Webb and Dan Biggar start at half-back with Scarlets duo Scott Williams and Jonathan Davies partnering in the midfield. Liam Williams, George North and Leigh Halfpenny comprise the back-three.

Scott Baldwin, Nicky Smith, Samson Lee, Luke Charteris and Taulupe Faletau provide the forward cover from the bench, with Gareth Davies, Sam Davies and Jamie Roberts the backline replacements.

Wales have won just one of their last four Six Nations matches against Ireland, a narrow 23-16 victory in Cardiff in 2015, and Howley acknowledged that the Joe Schmidt-coached Irish, who this year suffered a surprise loss to Scotland before bouncing back to beat Italy and France, would be tough opponents.

"Ireland are one of the in-form sides in world rugby and are coached very well and packed with experience and there are a number of interesting match-ups across both teams," the former Wales scrumhalf said.

"We always say we are fortunate to have the best supporters in the world and we are eager to put in a performance for them under the lights at Principality Stadium on Friday."

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: Friday, March 10
Venue: Principality Stadium, Cardiff
Kick-off: 20.05 (20.05 GMT)
Referee: Wayne Barnes (England)
Assistant referees: Jérôme Garcès (France), Matthew Carley (England)
TMO: Ben Skeen (New Zealand)

Agence France-Presse

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FIXTURE GMT VENUE
Sat, 18 November 2017
Worcester Warriors v Northampton Saints 12h00 Sixways
Italy v Argentina 13h00 Florence
Leicester Tigers v Sale Sharks 14h00 Welford Road
Wales v Georgia 14h30 Cardiff
England v Australia 15h00 Twickenham
Wasps v Newcastle Falcons 15h30 Ricoh Arena
Ireland v Fiji 16h30 Aviva Stadium
Scotland v New Zealand 17h15 Edinburgh
France v South Africa 19h45 Paris
Sun, 19 November 2017
Exeter Chiefs v Harlequins 14h00 Sandy Park
Leicester Tigers v Bath 14h00 Madejski Stadium
Fri, 24 November 2017
Ospreys v Glasgow Warriors 22h00 Liberty Stadium
Ulster v Treviso 18h05 Kingspan Stadium
Leinster v Dragons 18h35 RDS Stadium
Cardiff Blues v Connacht 18h35 Cardiff Arms Park
Newcastle Falcons v Gloucester 18h45 Kingston Park
Leicester Tigers v Worcester Warriors 18h45 Welford Road
Sale Sharks v Northampton Saints 19h00 AJ Bell Stadium
RESULT SCORE
Fri, 17 November 2017
Gloucester v Saracens 23 | 17
Tue, 14 November 2017
France XV v New Zealand 23 | 28
Sat, 11 November 2017
France v New Zealand 18 | 38
Ireland v South Africa 38 | 3
Wales v Australia 21 | 29
England v Argentina 21 | 8
Scotland v Samoa 44 | 38
Italy v Fiji 19 | 10
Sat, 04 November 2017
Cardiff Blues v Zebre 37 | 8
Connacht v Cheetahs 23 | 15
Edinburgh v Ospreys 37 | 10
Barbarians v New Zealand 22 | 31
Kings v Ulster 36 | 43
Japan v Australia 30 | 63
Fri, 03 November 2017
Scarlets v Treviso 20 | 8
SIX NATIONS
MORE LOGS
Team P W D L Pts
England 0 0 0 0 0
Ireland 0 0 0 0 0
France 0 0 0 0 0
Scotland 0 0 0 0 0
Wales 0 0 0 0 0
Italy 0 0 0 0 0