Six Nations 2014: Sam Warburton returns to lead Wales against Ireland as Warren Gatland makes three changes from Italy win
Prop Gethin Jenkins makes his return from injury alongside Warburton while lock Andrew Coombs comes in for the injured Luke Charteris
Tuesday 04 February 2014
Captain Sam Warburton will return to the Wales starting line-up for Saturday's RBS Six Nations clash against Ireland in Dublin.
Warburton, who began his comeback from a shoulder injury off the bench when Wales beat Italy three days ago, replaces openside flanker Justin Tipuric.
Wales coach Warren Gatland has made two other changes from the side that accounted for Italy 23-15, recalling 101 times-capped prop Gethin Jenkins in place of Paul James while Andrew Coombs takes over from lock Luke Charteris, who has a hamstring injury.
James and Tipuric are among the replacements, where there is also a spot for uncapped Scarlets lock Jake Ball.
Ball, 22, emigrated to Australia five years ago but his rugby progress Down Under was spotted by the Scarlets, and they signed him on a three-year deal in 2012.
The Berkshire-born forward qualifies for Wales through his father, who was born in Colwyn Bay.
Ball's Scarlets colleague, centre Jonathan Davies, will not be involved at the Aviva Stadium.
He returned to action with a 40-minute run-out for the Scarlets last Saturday following a three-month absence recovering from a torn pectoral muscle.
Lock Alun-Wyn Jones led Wales in Warburton's absence from the starting XV against Italy as the reigning Six Nations champions got their quest for an unprecedented title hat-trick off to a winning start.
And while Gatland has made three switches up front, the back division is unchanged.
Full-back Leigh Halfpenny, who passed 350 Test points during the Italy match, will win his 50th cap, a landmark that James is also set to reach if he features off the bench.
Wales have won three of their last four games against Ireland, but Joe Schmidt's team delivered a strong display to account for Scotland 28-6 in their Six Nations opener on Sunday.
"It is great to bring Sam and Gethin back into the side, and it's a good opportunity for Andrew Coombs to start as well," Gatland said.
"Last weekend was a good hit-out for a lot of reasons, but we still have things to work on and we know how important this game is.
"We haven't lost an away match in the Six Nations since 2011, and we have to have the belief and confidence that we can do it again this weekend.
"It's going to be tough - both sides won their opening game. We will have to be physical and take it to them.
"We feel in most tournaments that we get stronger as it goes on, and that will need to be the case this weekend."
Wales team to play Ireland in Dublin on Saturday:
L Halfpenny (Cardiff Blues); A Cuthbert (Cardiff Blues), S Williams (Scarlets), J Roberts (Racing Metro), G North (Northampton); R Priestland (Scarlets), M Phillips (Racing Metro); G Jenkins (Cardiff Blues), R Hibbard (Ospreys), A Jones (Ospreys), A Coombs (Newport Gwent Dragons), A-W Jones (Ospreys), D Lydiate (Racing Metro), S Warburton (Cardiff Blues, capt), T Faletau (Newport Gwent Dragons).
Replacements: K Owens (Scarlets), P James (Bath), R Jones (Scarlets), J Ball (Scarlets), J Tipuric (Ospreys), R Webb (Ospreys), J Hook (Perpignan), L Williams (Scarlets).
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