RHYS PRIESTLAND and Jamie Roberts have been selected in the Wales team to play Ireland in their opening RBS 6 Nations game on Sunday.
Fly-half Priestland and centre Roberts, who both impressed for Wales at the World Cup, had been struggling with knee injuries but have recovered in time to earn starting berths.
Cardiff Blues wing Alex Cuthbert replaces Shane Williams in Wales’ back three, although it is George North who will wear the famous No 11 shirt with Leigh Halfpenny retained at full-back.
Rhys Gill comes into the front row in place of injured prop Gethin Jenkins. The Saracens loosehead will win his second cap in Dublin and will have a big task to get the better of Ireland’s Mike Ross at scrum time, but he does have experienced heads Adam Jones and Huw Bennett, who will win his 50th cap, alongside him.
Dan Lydiate hasn’t recovered from his ankle injury and his place at blindside is taken by former Wales captain Ryan Jones.
Ireland will be looking to gain revenge for their two recent defeats by Wales – a controversial Mike Phillips try giving the Welsh victory in Cardiff in last year’s Six Nations as well as that comprehensive win by the men in red in the World Cup quarter-final in Wellington. But Wales coach Warren Gatland insists his team are up for the challenge.
“We have been able to retain continuity in some key areas, we have been working hard and we feel we are approaching this match with the right attitude and with some good preparation work done,” said Gatland.
“We are two sides who know each other well, Ireland will not have enjoyed losing to us in New Zealand, they will want to redress the balance in Dublin this weekend, but they will find us in just as determined mood.”
WALES TEAM TO PLAY IRELAND AT AVIVA STADIUM ON SUNDAY 5 FEBRUARY, KICK-OFF 3pm
Leigh Halfpenny; Alex Cuthbert, Jonathan Davies, Jamie Roberts, George North; Rhys Priestland, Mike Phillips; Rhys Gill, Huw Bennett, Adam Jones, Bradley Davies, Ian Evans, Ryan Jones, Sam Warburton (capt), Toby Faletau.
Replacements: Ken Owens, Paul James, Andy Powell, Justin Tipuric, Lloyd Williams, James Hook, Scott Williams