Wales show their hand ahead of Dublin showdown

Warren Gatland has named his side to do battle with the Irish

Wales v Ireland in the RBS Six Nations
Bang Warren Gatland is predicting a tough game on the weekend Image Photo Stu Forster/Getty Images

Wales have named their captain Sam Warburton at blindside flanker for their opening Six Nations tie against Ireland in Dublin on Sunday.

Warren Gatland also hands starts to flanker Justin Tipuric, full-back Gareth Anscombe and prop Rob Evans.

Centre Jonathan Davies, who missed the World Cup last autumn because of knee ligament injury, is named in midfield alongside Jamie Roberts.

Gatland was delighted with the news of Davies’ return as he cited the expected physical battle ahead.

Wales captain Sam Warburton
Skipper Sam Warburton will lead the Welsh side out this weekend Image Photo Stu Forster/Getty Images

“It’s great to see Jonathan back and alongside Jamie,” said Gatland. “They make a pretty experienced midfield. Gareth at full-back also gives us the option of having two first receivers.

“We have a very experienced bench with a lot of caps there and hopefully they will come on and make an impact. It’s going to be a physical game.”

Referring to the Six Nations clash in 2014 when Wales were hammered 26-3, Gatland added: “Two years ago, they strangled us out of the match and played well. We have to rise to that challenge on Sunday.”

The line up shows four changes from Wales’ last game – the World Cup quarter-final defeat against South Africa at Twickenham – but Gatland will be eager to get off to a winning start against rival Ireland coach Joe Schmidt before their home tie against Scotland the following weekend.

Ireland have had to reshuffle their pack with injuries and retirements forcing Joe Schmidt’s hand. 

Munster forward, South African born, CJ Stander makes his debut for Ireland on Sunday with club mate Tommy O’Donnell also starting in the back row. 

Simon Zebo slots in at full back for the injured Rob Kearney with nine changes from the Irish side who were knocked out of the World Cup last autumn by Argentina. 

Wales: Gareth Anscombe; George North, Jonathan Davies, Jamie Roberts, Tom James; Dan Biggar, Gareth Davies; Rob Evans, Scott Baldwin, Samson Lee, Luke Charteris, Alun Wyn Jones, Sam Warburton (capt), Justin Tipuric, Taulupe Faletau. Replacements: Ken Owens, Gethin Jenkins, Tomas Francis, Bradley Davies, Dan Lydiate, Lloyd Williams, Rhys Priestland, Alex Cuthbert.

Ireland: S Zebo, A Trimble, K Earls; J Payne, R Henshaw; J Sexton, C Murray; J McGrath, R Best, N White; M McCarthy, D Toner; CJ Stander, T O’Donnell, J Heaslip. ReplacementsS Cronin, J Cronin, T Furlong, D Ryan, R Ruddock, K Marmion, I Madigan, D Kearney.

 

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Loaded sports writer Pearse Corcoran has covered news, sport and entertainment for several national newspapers and radio stations in Ireland. Follow him on Twitter at @PearseCorcoran

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