Wales opt for experience
Wales opt for experienceSHARE
Wales interim head coach Rob Howley has named an experienced side to begin the defence of their Six Nations title with 13 members of the 2012 Grand Slam-winning squad starting the opening fixture against Ireland on Saturday.
A sold out Millennium Stadium will witness the first match of the 2013 tournament kick-off in Cardiff and the starting 15 features one uncapped player, Dragons second row Andrew Coombs.
Coombs will partner Ospreys’ Ian Evans in the second row who returns from injury to start the fixture.
The same back row that started the final end-of-year international against Australia will face Ireland with captain Sam Warburton (Blues) joined by Aaron Shingler (Scarlets) at blindside and Toby Faletau (Dragons) at No.8.
The front row sees the return of Adam Jones (Ospreys) from injury and he links up with Matthew Rees (Scarlets) and Gethin Jenkins (Toulon) to reunite the 2009 British and Irish Lions front row.
In the backline, Dan Biggar is the only change to the side that kicked off last season’s Six Nations with victory over Ireland in Dublin.
The Ospreys flyhalf will win his 12th cap and will be partnered by scrumhalf Mike Phillips (Bayonne).
The Grand Slam-winning midfield partnership of Jamie Roberts (Blues) and Jonathan Davies (Scarlets) wear No.12 and No.13 respectively.
Blues fullback Leigh Halfpenny and wings Alex Cuthbert (Blues) and George North (Scarlets) started all five games in last year’s Championship and they will line up together in the back three.
“As a squad we have worked hard over the past two weeks and go into Saturday excited and confident at defending our title,” said Howley.
“It’s a boost to have Adam and Ian return from injury and it’s a great opportunity for Andrew who has been performing well at regional level to show what he can do on this stage.
“The Six Nations is all about momentum and we know we have to hit the ground running against Ireland.”
On the bench, Craig Mitchell returns to the matchday squad for the first time since the Rugby World Cup in 2011 and he is joined by uncapped Harlequins second row Olly Kohn.
Richard Hibbard, Ryan Jones, Eli Walker (all Ospreys), Lou Reed (Blues) and Liam Williams (Scarlets) were unavailable for selection due to injury.
Wales: 15 Leigh Halfpenny, 14 Alex Cuthbert, 13 Jonathan Davies, 12 Jamie Roberts, 11George North, 10 Dan Biggar, 9 Mike Phillips, 8 Toby Faletau, 7 Sam Warburton (captain), 6 Aaron Shingler, 5 Ian Evans, 4 Andrew Coombs, 3 Adam Jones, 2 Matthew Rees, 1 Gethin Jenkins.
Replacements: 16 Ken Owens, 17 Craig Mitchell, 18 Paul James, 19 Olly Kohn, 20 Justin Tipuric, 21 Liam Williams, 22 Scott Williams, 23 James Hook.
Date: Saturday, February 2
Venue: Millennium Stadium, Cardiff
Kick-off: 13.30 (13.30 GMT)
Referee: Romain Poite (France)
Assistant referees: Jaco Peyper (South Africa), Pascal Gauzere (France)
TMO: Graham Hughes (England)