Six Nations 2018: Wales recall Dan Biggar, Leigh Halfpenny and Liam Williams but Taulupe Faletau unavailable

No 8 Faletau has been sent back to Bath to make his return from a three-month knee injury

Jack de Menezes
Tuesday 20 February 2018 16:49
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Dan Biggar will return for the Six Nations clash with Ireland
Dan Biggar will return for the Six Nations clash with Ireland

Warren Gatland has recalled Dan Biggar at the earliest opportunity after the Wales fly-half was declared fit for this Saturday’s Six Nations clash with Ireland, but wing George North will have to make do with a place among the replacements once again.

Ospreys stand-off Biggar returns at the expense of Rhys Patchell, with the Scarlets fly-half dropped from the match-day squad completely after his poor showing against England in the 12-6 defeat 10 days ago. Biggar is joined in the starting XV by Liam Williams and Leigh Halfpenny, with the pair fit to return after recovering from abdominal and foot injuries respectively.

They’re joined in the back three by Steff Evans, who retains his place ahead of North despite the Northampton Saints wing’s impressive showing for his club at the weekend, while the forward pack remains unchanged from the opening two rounds of the Championship.

"It is great to be able to bring so much experience back into the starting XV and into the back-line,” Gatland said.

"It is the first week we have had everyone in the 'green' in terms of availability, which is a nice luxury to have and a positive ahead of what is a very important Test match against a very good Ireland side.

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"We have been pleased with the depth we have developed in the back-three and pleased with how those players have gone, but having the experience of Dan, Liam and Leigh coming back in is hugely important.

"We have been pleased with how the forward pack has been going and how they have worked as a unit, but as always, there is pressure for them to perform, too."

Although the returning trio will hand Wales a boost ahead of the difficult trip to the Aviva Stadium, they remain without No 8 Taulupe Faletau, who has been sent back to Bath for the weekend in order to get some game time under his belt with a view to returning for the final two rounds against Italy and France.

Meanwhile, Tadhg Furlong and Iain Henderson face a race against time to prove their fitness for Ireland. Lock James Ryan has been passed fit after a groin issue, so will be free to contest selection for the weekend's Dublin battle.

But tighthead prop Furlong and second row Henderson are yet to prove their fitness after hamstring complaints. Defence coach Andy Farrell admitted Ireland boss Joe Schmidt could even wait until Thursday morning before finalising his line-up, as Furlong and Henderson fight for fitness.

Wales team to play Ireland

Leigh Halfpenny (Scarlets); Liam Williams (Saracens), Scott Williams (Scarlets), Hadleigh Parkes (Scarlets), Steff Evans (Scarlets); Dan Biggar (Ospreys), Gareth Davies (Scarlets); Rob Evans (Scarlets), Ken Owens (Scarlets), Samson Lee (Scarlets), Cory Hill (Dragons), Alun Wyn Jones (Ospreys, capt), Aaron Shingler (Scarlets), Josh Navidi (Cardiff Blues), Ross Moriarty (Gloucester).

Replacements: Elliot Dee (Dragons), Wyn Jones (Scarlets), Tomas Francis (Exeter), Bradley Davies (Ospreys), Justin Tipuric (Ospreys), Aled Davies (Scarlets), Gareth Anscombe (Cardiff Blues), George North (Northampton).

Additional reporting from the Press Association

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