Wales team to face Ireland named

Wales interim head coach Rob Howley has named the team that will begin the defence of their RBS 6 Nations title with 13 members of the 2012 Grand Slam winning squad starting the opening fixture against Ireland on Saturday.

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 autumn 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 & 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 fly-half will win his 12th cap and will be partnered at half-back by Mike Phillips (Bayonne).

The Grand Slam winning midfield partnership of Jamie Roberts (Blues) and Jonathan Davies (Scarlets) wear 12 and 13 respectively.

Blues full back 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 Wales interim head coach Rob 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 match day 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: Leigh Halfpenny; Alex Cuthbert, Jonathan Davies, Jamie Roberts, George North; Dan Biggar, Mike Phillips; Gethin Jenkins, Matthew Rees, Adam Jones, Andrew Coombs, Ian Evans, Aaron Shingler, Sam Warburton (C), Toby Faletau.
REPLACEMENTS: Ken Owens, Paul James, Craig Mitchell, Olly Kohn, Justin Tipuric, Lloyd Williams, James Hook, Scott Williams.