Gatland happy with double return
February 3, 2012
Rhys Priestland and Jamie Roberts are both back in action for Wales © Getty Images
Wales coach Warren Gatland has dismissed fears over the fitness of Rhys Priestland and Jamie Roberts, insisting that they have not taken a double risk for Sunday's Six Nations clash with Ireland.
The visitors were boosted on Friday as both players were named in the starting line-up, although the influential Dan Lydiate failed to make the cut due to an ankle problem. Ryan Jones takes his place at blindside, with Saracens' Rhys Gill named at loose-head for the injured Gethin Jenkins.
Roberts has not featured competitively since Christmas due to a knee injury, while Scarlets fly-half Priestland suffered knee trouble during a Heineken Cup game two weeks ago.
"We are happy that Rhys and Jamie have come through," Gatland said. "Unfortunately for Dan, he is not quite ready. He might be ready next weekend [against Scotland], but it is an opportunity for Ryan Jones at six.
"I can only take it on what the medical staff say, and they say they are fit. So if they tell me they are fit and we think they are good enough to be selected, then we are going to do that.
"We had a report from the medics saying they were confident they would be right for Sunday. Jamie had a few sessions during our training camp in Poland, and Rhys had a couple. They haven't taken a full part, but we are quite happy with the amount of rugby they have got under their belts for this game."
Wales have only won twice on Irish soil since the Six Nations began 12 years ago, but Gatland's men will arrive in Dublin following successive victories against Ireland.
They claimed a narrow Six Nations victory last season - albeit aided by a controversial Mike Phillips try after the wrong ball was thrown back into play by hooker Matthew Rees - then triumphed 22-10 at the Rugby World Cup.
Gill is joined in making a first start by Blues wing Alex Cuthbert, who takes over from Shane Williams. Gatland has faith in both players, despite their inexperience.
"Rhys is playing well for Saracens, and Alex takes over from Shane Williams. They were natural selections for us," Gatland said. "We have been very impressed with the way Rhys has been playing. He's playing regularly, and he has got the nod.
"Alex has come through the Sevens circuit. He is still young and inexperienced, but he is very quick and very powerful. We are hopeful of big things from him in the next season or two."
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
John Taylor argues the world's best XVs players must be given a chance to play in the Olympics to increase the appeal of the game
The All Blacks' form is not a peaking issue, but Hansen must threaten to wield his axe, to demand improvement, Craig Dowd writes
"It has been the World Cup that smashed down the gender barriers of the sport." Tom Hamilton looks back at a remarkable tournament
A selection of the best pictures from England's historic World Cup triumph in Paris as they beat Canada 21-9