Roberts and Priestland make the cut
February 3, 2012
Jamie Roberts has recovered from a knee problem to start for Wales © Getty Images
Rhys Priestland and Jamie Roberts will both start for Wales in the Six Nations opener against Ireland at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin on Sunday.
Scarlets fly-half Priestland and Blues centre Roberts have recovered from knee injuries in time to take their places in a starting line-up which shows six changes to that which faced Australia at the Millennium Stadium in December and just five from that which defeated Ireland in the Rugby World Cup quarter-finals six weeks earlier.
Saracens loose-head prop Rhys Gill comes into the side for the injured Gethin Jenkins (knee), after winning his other cap two years ago - appearing from the bench against Ireland at Croke Park. Blues wing Alex Cuthbert, who made his debut against Australia before Christmas, makes his first start profiting from the retirement of Shane Williams, with Scarlets wing George North switching flanks to take the No.11 jersey synonymous with Wales' top try scorer.
Elsewhere in the starting XV, the Scarlets' Jonathan Davies is reunited with Roberts and Bayonne scrum-half Mike Phillips also returns. Davies replaces his regional colleague Scott Williams and Phillips replaces Blues halfback Lloyd Williams, with both departing players providing cover from the bench.
Ospreys and British & Irish Lions prop Adam Jones returns to the front row alongside Gill and hooker Huw Bennett, who is set for his 50th Test cap. The final change from the Australia match sees another Osprey Ryan Jones come into the back-row for injured Dragon Dan Lydiate (ankle).
Ireland have turned to Fergus McFadden to deputise for the injured Brian O'Driscoll, following the withdrawal of Keith Earls due to personal reasons. The Munster back has remained in Limerick after his daughter was taken ill.
The in-form Andrew Trimble has been selected on the left wing with Jonathan Sexton and Conor Murray the preferred halfbacks. Sexton has edged out the more experienced Ronan O'Gara, who must settle for a spot among the replacements. In total there are only three changes, one positional, to the side defeated 22-10 by Wales in their World Cup quarter-final.
The pack is identical to the eight that suffered heartache in Wellington with Donncha O'Callaghan holding off the challenge of Donnacha Ryan in the second row. The only Test debutant in the 22 is Munster back row Peter O'Mahony, who features on the bench.
Ireland: Rob Kearney, Tommy Bowe, Fergus McFadden, Gordon D'Arcy, Andrew Trimble, Johnny Sexton, Conor Murray; Cian Healy, Rory Best, Mike Ross, Donnacha O'Callaghan, Paul O'Connell (c), Stephen Ferris, Sean O'Brien, Jamie Heaslip
Replacements: Sean Cronin, Tom Court, Donnacha Ryan, Peter O'Mahony, Eoin Reddan, Ronan O'Gara, David Kearney
Wales: Leigh Halfpenny; Alex Cuthbert, Jonathan Davies, Jamie Roberts, George North; Rhys Priestland, Michael Phillips; Rhys Gill, Huw Bennett, Adam Jones, Bradley Davies, Ian Evans, Ryan Jones, Sam Warburton (C), Toby Faletau.
Replacements: Ken Owens, Paul James, Andy Powell, Justin Tipuric, Lloyd Williams, James Hook, Scott Williams
Referee: Wayne Barnes (England)
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
Firdose Moonda looks at the moves towards greater integration within South African rugby ... and what the future holds
Martin Gillingham looks ahead to what he believes is the most remarkable ever climax to the league phase of the Top 14
With just two rounds left in the regular season, we look at the prospects of the teams taking part in the Championship play-offs
Joe Simpson talks to Charlie Morgan about loss, Wasps and being England's game-breaker