Six Nations

Lions duo return for Wales

2015-02-02 13:57
George North (Getty)

London - Wales head coach Warren Gatland sprang a surprise on Monday by naming his team to face England in Friday's opening Six Nations match in Cardiff 48 hours ahead of schedule.

There are two changes to the side that beat South Africa 12-6 in November, with British and Irish Lions pair George North and Richard Hibbard coming into the side at wing and hooker.

Captain Sam Warburton, meanwhile, will win his 50th cap.

"We told the players (the team) this morning," Gatland said.

"What normally happens in Wales is that when the players know, it doesn't take long for reporters to ring around and it is in the paper tomorrow. We were looking to stop any of that speculation.

"We decided to name the team early to give the players the best possible chance of preparation.

"It was a tough call on the two changes we have made from the side that beat South Africa. But it is good to have these and other tough selection decisions, and it's a strong position to be in."

Liam Williams and Scott Baldwin are the two players to make way from the South Africa win, with both men named among the replacements.

Hibbard joins Gethin Jenkins and Samson Lee in the front row, with Jake Ball and Alun Wyn Jones at lock and Warburton partnering Dan Lydiate and Taulupe Faletau in the back row.

Ospreys pair Rhys Webb and Dan Biggar continue at half-back, with Jamie Roberts and Jonathan Davies in midfield.

North, 22, is the only new face in the back line and takes his place alongside Alex Cuthbert and Leigh Halfpenny.

North missed the Springboks game due to concussion and with Williams in impressive form, Gatland has warned the Northampton powerhouse that he faces a battle to hold onto a first-team place.

"We had a good chat to George," Gatland said. "We don't think he has played that well in the Welsh jersey in the last few games, so there is a lot of pressure and expectation on him to perform.

"But one of the things he has done for Wales is that he has scored tries, and he continues to do that for his club as well.

"He does have that X-factor. We are looking for a big performance from him on Friday night."

Wales lost 29-18 to England at Twickenham in last year's championship, but claimed a title-clinching 30-3 victory when the teams last met at the Millennium Stadium in 2013.

England are due to announce their team for the game on Wednesday.

Kick-off is at 22:05 SA time.



15 Leigh Halfpenny, 14 Alex Cuthbert, 13 Jonathan Davies, 12 Jamie Roberts, 11 George North, 10 Dan Biggar, 9 Rhys Webb, 8 Taulupe Faletau, 7 Sam Warburton (captain), 6 Dan Lydiate, 5 Alun Wyn Jones, 4 Jake Ball, 3 Samson Lee, 2 Richard Hibbard, 1 Gethin Jenkins

Substitutes: 16 Scott Baldwin, 17 Paul James, 18 Aaron Jarvis, 19 Luke Charteris, 20 Justin Tipuric, 21 Mike Phillips, 22 Rhys Priestland, 23 Liam Williams



Read more on:    wales  |  six nations  |  rugby

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